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Mark A. Philbrick / BYU
Mark A. Philbrick / BYU

Study Suggests Disney Princess Culture Is Harmful for Little Girls

Mark A. Philbrick / BYU
Mark A. Philbrick / BYU

The ridiculously popular Disney Princesses franchise makes money hand over fist; in 2012 alone, sales totaled more than $3 billion. And why shouldn’t it? Snow White and her gang are sweet, and—more importantly in a world ablaze with sex and violence—they’re harmless. Or so most people think. A year-long study found that little girls who engage with Disney Princess culture are more likely to buy into harmful sexist stereotypes. The research was published in the journal Child Development. 

Sarah M. Coyne is a social science researcher in Brigham Young University’s Department of Family Life. “I think parents think that the Disney Princess culture is safe. That’s the word I hear time and time again—it’s ‘safe,’” Coyne said in a press statement. “But if we’re fully jumping in here and really embracing it, parents should really consider the long-term impact of the princess culture.” As a scientist and the mother of a little girl, Coyne wanted to find out what that long-term impact could be. 

Coyne and her colleagues enlisted the families of 198 preschoolers. The researchers interviewed the kids’ parents and teachers to find out if, how, and how much each child interacted with Disney Princess media and products. The parents and teachers also filled out questionnaires about how the children behaved, their self-esteem, and how they liked to play. 

The kids then completed a preference task, in which they were shown stereotypical “girl toys” (dolls, a tea set), “boy toys” (action figures, play construction equipment), and neutral toys (paint, puzzles) and asked how much they liked each toy.

Around one year later, the preschoolers’ parents filled out the same questionnaires again. 

As expected, Disney Princess saturation reached mind-boggling levels. The results showed that 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had consumed some form of Disney Princess media, and 61 percent of girls played with Disney Princess toys at least once a week. 

Unfortunately, the more time a little girl spent hanging out with Belle and the gang, the more likely she was to buy in to gender stereotypes one year later. And we don’t just mean that they were kinder or more communicative. We mean that they felt limited to “girly” activities and behavior. 

“We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can’t do some things,” Coyne said. “They’re not as confident that they can do well in math and science. They don’t like getting dirty, so they’re less likely to try and experiment with things.” 

Given the ubiquity of the Disney Princess franchise, the researchers know it’s hardly realistic for parents to ban princesses altogether. Talk to your kids about princesses, Coyne says. Conversations about princess media had a positive effect on kids, shielding them somewhat from the stereotypes onscreen. 

“I’d say, have moderation in all things,” Coyne said. “Have your kids involved in all sorts of activities, and just have princesses be one of many, many things that they like to do and engage with.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to better reflect the results of the study.

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© 2017 USPS
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Pop Culture
Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

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Smart Shopping
11 Gifts for the Curious Kids in Your Life

No matter their age, you want to find gifts that will keep the kids in your life entertained, stimulated, and give them a sense of accomplishment—even during playtime. Luckily, these 11 gifts will do all of that, and will encourage their curiosity to grow.

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1. RACE ACROSS THE USA; $22

Race Across the USA
Young Explorers

Want to get kids excited about the next big family road trip? Or give them some talking points about their favorite aunt’s home state? This board game helps them understand the geography of the U.S., as well as trivia on each of the 50 states and the major landmarks and capitals.

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2. ROOT-VUE FARM; $35

Whether they join FFA or not, kids can get a head start on understanding horticulture with this indoor garden system. Plant any root vegetable—carrots, radishes, onions, etc—and watch them obsess over the underground view of their harvest.

Find It: Young Explorers

3. DROID INVENTOR KIT; $100

This is definitely the droid you’re looking for. Recommended for kids in grades 3 to 8, this customizable robot comes with an app that defines more than a dozen missions for kids to send their creations on. And for any Star Wars fans, the Droid makes 20 different sounds, just like from the movies.

Find It: littleBits

4. SPEEDY RACER BILINGUAL LAPTOP; $26

Speedy Racer Bilingual Laptop
Imagine Toys

Kids ages 3 and up can play games, make their own music, and work on language, math, and memory skills with this activity-filled laptop. Plus, the English/Spanish component will help enhance the child’s fluency in both languages.

Find It: Imagine Toys

5. BIKE CHALK TRAIL KIT; $20

Bike Chalk Trail Kit
Uncommon Goods

Think beyond the coloring book. By attaching thick, non-toxic chalk to the back of a bike, kids can work on increased spatial awareness, collaborative drawings with friends, and may perhaps have a greater appreciation for the large-scale, colorful work of a Basquiat or Pollock.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

6. ROCKET SCIENCE DRESS; $30

For little girls who want to shoot for the stars, this Katherine Johnson-inspired dress illustrates her human-calculator abilities as drawn out on a chalkboard. Rocket propulsion simulation, gravity loss equations, etc. You know, the basics.

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7. 3DOODLER 3D PRINTING PEN SET; $43

3Doodler 3D Pen Set
Amazon

This wireless pen allows kids to freestyle draw in the air—the eco-plastic filament cools in place quickly, giving kids plenty of practice with spatial reasoning without the costs of a full 3D printer.

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8. A COMPREHENSIVE CURTAIN CALL OF BROADWAY COSTUMES; $29

A Comprehensive Curtain Call of Broadway Costumes
Pop Chart Lab

For musical-obsessed kids, this curtain call of famous costumes can serve as a checklist for any Broadway productions they haven't seen (or, more likely, memorized the cast recording and seen the movie version of) yet. Perennial children's favorites like Annie, Grease, and Wicked are included, but you might want to have an answer ready for when your preteen cousin asks to watch Cabaret.

Find It: Pop Chart Lab

9. THE PLAY GYM BY LOVEVERY; $140

The Play Mat by Lovevery
Amazon

Specially designed by experts to stimulate infants for their first year, this play mat grows with your favorite baby. It has five developmental zones in addition to 24 different stage-based activities—like teethers, mirrors, and colorful flash cards. And, when baby becomes a toddler, the mat converts into a tent fort for further imaginative play.

Find It: Amazon

10. STOP MOTION ANIMATION KIT; $60

Stop Motion Animation Kit
Uncommon Goods

Budding animators who need to fine-tune their skills (and patience!) will spend hours moving these silly characters around slowly, photographing their adventures, and editing the film into mini-movies.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

11. PRESCHOOL KIDNOCULARS; $15

Kidnoculars
Young Explorers

Kid-proof and specially designed for tiny hands and faces, these binoculars can help preschoolers get to know the world around them. Play a game like “I Spy” and have them find squirrels in trees, clouds in the sky, or all those Cheerios they spilled behind their bed.

Find It: Amazon

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