Parents likely don't think twice about introducing their young ones to classic and modern fairy tale movies.
A new study from Brigham Young University, however, said Disney princess culture may be bad for them.
The study was published in Child Development.
BYU family life professor Sarah Coyne, who led the study, said interactions with the princesses may lead preschoolers to be more likely to fall into damaging stereotypes.
“I think parents think that the Disney Princess culture is safe," Coyne said. "That’s the word I hear time and time again - 'it’s ‘safe.' But if we’re fully jumping in here and really embracing it, parents should really consider the long-term impact of the princess culture.”
The study said that while stereotypical behaviors aren't bad in and of themselves, past research has shown that they can be limiting in the long term for young women.
For it, researchers looked at 198 preschoolers and how much they interacted with Disney princesses by watching movies, playing with toys and other things. The assessments were based on reports from parents and teachers and an interactive task where children would rank their favorite toys.
They said they found that 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had viewed Disney princesses in some form. While more than 61 percent of girls played with princess toys, only 4 percent of boys did the same on a weekly basis.
For both genders, more interactions with princesses predicted more female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later.
Researchers said gendered behavior can become a problem if girls avoid important learning experiences that are not looked at as feminine. They also can believe their opportunities in life are different as a girl.
“They’re not as confident that they can do well in math and science," Coyne suggested. "They don’t like getting dirty, so they’re less likely to try and experiment with things.”
For boys, however, the study claimed Disney princess interactions had some positive effects. It counter-balanced the hyper-masculine superhero media typically viewed by them.
Coyne recommended serving princess media in moderation.
She said children should be involved in all sorts of activities with princesses being one of many things with which they engage.
To read more about the study, click here.
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