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How Disney Princesses Can Help Enhance A Child’s Self-image

Elsa from Frozen and Moana were some of the most popular Disney princesses among children. 

Disney princesses can actually enhance a child’s self-image and improve their confidence, but only if they’re an average size.

The good news for parents is that whether they’re thin or normal size they don’t harm kids in any way.

However researchers couldn’t find any Disney Princesses that would fall into an above-average to heavy size to see what effects that has.

But now researchers from the University of California, Davis, say having a favorite princess can improve a child’s body confidence.

Disney princesses have always been popular but some parents wondered what effects these idealized images of young women might have on how their children feel about and express themselves.

Jane Shawcroft, a doctoral student researcher in the Department of Communication and lead author of the study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media, said: “People are critical of Disney princesses, but our findings suggest parents, caregivers and mentors might want to give those princesses another look.”

Moana GIFfrom Moana GIFs

The team studied 340 children and their caregivers living in the Denver area. Just over half the children were girls and about 84 percent were white.

From Snow White in 1937 through to Elsa in Frozen and Moana the effect of these princesses on children has been debated. PHOTO BY BRIAN MCGOWAN/UNSPLASH

They looked at them aged three and returned a year later to measure any changes in body esteem and gendered play.

The study aimed to tackle the two biggest criticisms of princesses’ effect, body esteem and gendered play.

They looked at how the body type of a favorite Disney princess affects children’s body esteem, meaning how confident they feel about their own bodies and their masculine or feminine play.

Overall the most popular princess among both boys and girls was Elsa from the 2013 film Frozen. The next most popular princesses were Moana followed by Anna, also from Frozen.

The team from UCD along with colleagues at Brigham Young University categorized Disney princesses into three body categories.

Children whose favorite princesses had an average body had higher body esteem a year later.

These children were also more open to exploring play that was both stereotypically masculine and feminine, and this was true for both boys and girls.

She said that researchers learned that Disney princesses matter much more than most people believe, particularly for children, both boys and girls.

“These findings present greater nuance to our understanding of the effect of media engagement on children’s development of body esteem and gender stereotypes, allowing us to better understand how Disney princesses specifically may play a role in children’s lives and growth.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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