Education Blog

Disney Princesses Not Much Toxic, Study Says

September 23, 2021

Parents worry that their children are not learning the correct messages about gender stereotypes and roles. They worry even though there children love princesses movies, especially Disney ones.

Many princesses are damsels in need with extremely thin waistlines. Princes are a particular type of man, with very little space for emotions. A new study shows that children who love princesses have a better view of gender than kids who don’t.

According to the study, children who were obsessed with princesses were five times more likely by age 10 to have “progressive views” on gender. For example, they were five times more likely than those who were not to suppress their emotions. Princess-obsessed children also had higher self-esteem about their bodies.

Researchers interviewed 307 children about their interest and passion for princesses at the age of five. Five years later, the stereotypical female interests of girls who grew up with princess toys and watched princess movies were less common. They also agreed less with gender-stereotyped statements.

Shift In Princesses Portrayal

In recent years, Disney movies have shifted to princesses who are independent and capable, such as Moana, the seafaring Moana, or Rapunzel, the frying pan-wielding Rapunzel. Even the children who loved classics like Sleeping Beauty as preschoolers had progressive gender views by age 10.

“You would expect a girl who says Mulan is her favorite princess to be less gender-stereotypic than one who loves Cinderella,” Sarah Coyne, a Brigham Young University professor and author of the study, said to the Wall Street Journal.

Coyne and her coworkers published a 2016 study after interviewing many preschoolers. The researchers found that girls and boys who are obsessed with princesses were more likely than those who were not to be so obsessed a year later to display stereotypical female behavior. The new study showed that stereotypical behavior does not last for long.

There is a fact that parents might use princess movies to discuss gender stereotypes with their children which explains this. These stories give children the opportunity to see girls as protagonists.

This relationship between princess obsessions and views on gender might not be applicable to all children. Researchers only interviewed children in Utah and Oregon. 87 percent of the respondents were white. The results can’t be generalized. “It’s difficult to say that in long-term, princess culture for girls is empowering,” Rebecca Haines. She is a professor at Salem State University. She also wrote “The Princess Problem”: Guiding our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years,” said the Wall Street Journal.

There’s no need to worry if your children are obsessed with Jasmine, Jasmine, or Tiana. This doesn’t mean the girls will become damsels in distress, or that the boys will feel the pressure to be their knight in shining armour.