Barbie Dolls Harm Little Girls' Body Image, Experts Advise Parents; Mattel Rejects Study

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald January 30, 04:00 am

There is harm in letting little girls play with Barbie dolls even for just one time. Experts have advised this to parents and claim the toy can have a huge impact on a girl's body image in a new study. Mattel, the maker of Barbie, however, disagrees with the study's claims.

Marika Tiggemann, a professor of psychology at the Flinders University in Australia, conducted the study with her team by observing 160 kids between the ages of 5 and 8. Their findings were published in the journal Body Image.

They concluded playing with Barbie dolls even for one time or just seeing its near-perfect image as thin and well-proportioned can lead to little girls thinking they should look like Barbie as well. The doll could promote that appearance is very important and that being skinny is better than being fat, Herald Sun reports.

Thus, the experts are advising parents not to buy little girls below 8-years-old Barbie dolls. "If girls already have Barbies then parents should encourage them to do more than just make them look ­pretty," Tiggerman said, according to Daily Mail.

This was not the first time researchers claim Barbie dolls affect young girls' body image. A separate team from Pennsylvania State University also conducted their own study which has also been published in the Body Image journal.

This research has drawn up similar conclusions the doll is giving children an unrealistic image that being slim is better. It further cited Barbie dolls could trigger issues about body dissatisfaction that could lead to eating disorders. The researchers suggested parents should emphasize and discuss what entails having a healthy body with their little girls so that they can develop good body image concepts.

Mattel isn't buying the study's claims though. The company cited they have regular conversations with parents and kids from around the world regarding their iconic product.

Mattel's global insights VP Dr. Michael Shore told Herald Sun they have parents telling them of the positive impact of Barbie dolls on their girls because the toy sparks their imagination and creativity. Even so, Barbie has evolved over the years with different designs, looks and body types for the doll, including a Curvy Barbie, BBC reports.

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