There's Now Proof That Too Much Disney Can Actually Be Harmful
It's pretty widely known that Disney Princesses aren't really the best role models for little girls. And yet, the classics like "The Little Mermaid," "Cinderella" and "Beauty And The Beast" are still widely popular. As more research goes into studying the negative and positive parts of exposing kids to Disney movies, the more we learn about how much the films affected us.
I watched all the movies as a kid. According to my mom, I dressed up as Snow White for an entire year. Like, I went to kindergarten in the costume every day. As an adult, I have very little tolerance for anything Disney related because I think it's boring, but obviously, the movies really affected me during those early formative years.
A recent study done by BYU family life professor Sarah M. Coyne shows that the damage from interacting with Disney princesses at a young age starts very early on.
The study, which was published in the journal Child Development, included 198 preschoolers. Their interactions with both Disney princess toys, action figures and gender neutral toys were closely monitored.
What they expected was that the kids who played with the princess toys would behave in a female gender-stereotypical way over time. That's not the bad part, though. Coyne discovered a completely different issue. She explains,
We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can't do some things... 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.
But the damage goes deeper than acting stereotypically like a girl. It proves that girls who are exposed to these thin, unrealistic looking princesses (OK, aside from the fact that they're cartoons, they're still thin AF) have worse self-esteem and are more likely to view their bodies negatively.
Coyne also says,
Disney Princesses represent some of the first examples of exposure to the thin ideal... As women, we get it our whole lives, and it really does start at the Disney princess level, at age three and four.
According to the study, girls who play with Disney princess toys will probably seek out role models based on what they consider to be beautiful, instead of seeking out role models based on other qualities.
Parents love showing kids Disney movies because they're "safe." But maybe they're not as safe as parents want to believe. This study serves as proof that it's crucial to expose both boys and girls to different types of media, toys and experiences that are both appropriate and "safe."
It also shows how careful we need to be with how we talk to girls to make sure we build up their confidence in themselves as a person and put less focus on looks.