PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You probably don’t think twice when you buy your daughter a Disney princess toy, or take her to see the latest princess movie. It’s probably like second nature to let her be Cinderella for Halloween.
Well, if you don’t think twice about those things now, a new study from BYU might make you.
According to the study, led by BYU family life professor Sarah M. Coyne, interactions with Disney princess culture can lead young children to be more likely to fall into stereotypes that could be damaging for them down the road.
The study cited the avoidance of behaviors that aren’t seen to be feminine, or the belief that only certain opportunities are afforded to women, as dangers of falling into certain stereotypes.
For the study, 198 preschool age children were examined. The researchers deciphered how much the children interacted with princess culture and consulted parents and educators about the children’s behaviors.
The children were asked to rank their favorite toys to play with from a grouping of toys broken down into “girl,” toys, “boy,” toys and gender-neutral toys.
According to the study, 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys encountered some form of Disney princess materials. They found that only four percent of boys played with some type of princess toy on a weekly basis, while 61 percent of girls did.
The researchers claim that more time spent with princess materials led to more female-specific gender-stereotyped behavior one year later. It also cited that boys actually had some positive effects from interacting with princess materials, which served as a balance from the hyper-masculine images presented to boys.
Coyne and researchers recommended that parents not totally keep Disney princess culture away from their daughters, but instead foster an environment where princess portrayals are discussed for the good and bad in the examples they set. They recommend that children get a balance that results in a wide range of toys and media.