Science says body image problems start when girls play with thin Barbie

Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images

Problems with body image emerge when young girls play with dolls, according to the latest study.

Researchers found that girls aged 6 to 8 years were more likely to desire a thinner body after playing with a thin Barbie doll.

And those girls who played with full-figured Tracy dolls showed less body dissatisfaction compared to those playing with thin dolls.

“Playing with unrealistically thin dolls may encourage motivation for a thinner shape in young girls,” writes Kathleen Keller of Pennsylvania State University and colleagues.

Symptoms of body dissatisfaction, a precursor to eating disorders, emerge at a young age and have been shown to increase in severity through young adulthood.

Body dissatisfaction comes from pressures to be thin from a variety of sources, including friends, family, and peers, as well as media exposure.

The average female body portrayed in the media is between 13% and 19% below the expected weight for women.

The researchers say the findings emphasise the need to engage young girls in discussions about healthy body image and healthy role models.

The paper, The impact of doll style of dress and familiarity on body dissatisfaction in 6- to 8-year-old girls, was published in the journal Body Image.

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