BYU family life professor Sarah M. Coyne has released new research detailing how “Disney Princess culture” can lead to potentially damaging stereotypes if not checked. Printed in Childhood Development and reported on in Science Daily, the research states that while the behaviors learned from Disney Princess isn’t inherently bad, but a problematic long-term impact is possible if children and their parents avoid honest discussions about gender stereotypes.
The research showed that 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had experienced Disney Princess media; the more interaction the preschoolers had with Disney Princesses, the more likely the were to subscribe to female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later. Interestingly, while girls were found to be less confident and less likely to experiment according to Coyne, boys who watched Disney Princesses were found to be more helpful and have better body esteem.
In the study, the key to enjoying Disney Princess culture was parental involvement. Science Daily reported: “For both genders, the study discovered that parents who discuss princess media with their children have a significant effect on their children’s behavior.”
Conye gave a personal example from her own life. She and her daughter enjoyed the bravery, strength, and independence from Brave’s Merida and had a great conversation about it.
“And then in the marketing, Disney slims her down, sexualizes her, takes away her bow and arrow, gives her makeup–feminizes her. So then we’re at the supermarket and see this ‘new Merida’ on fruit snacks and soup cans, and I point it out to my daughter and we have a conversation about the difference. And now when we’re at the store, she’ll see the soup can herself and say, ‘That’s not the real Merida and I’m not buying it,'” Conye said.