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"Princess Culture" Is Likely Harming Girls' Self-Esteem, Study Finds

While toy companies have definitely made strides toward adding diversity to dolls and action figures, the so-called "princess effect" is still very real.

A recent study published in "Child Development" by Sarah M. Coyne, a family life professor at Brigham Young University (BYU), tested 198 preschoolers (both boys and girls) to research how engagement with Disney princesses — in both media and other product forms — affects gender-stereotypical behavior and self-esteem.

Coyne analyzed the behavior of these children twice, once to start and then again a year later to determine what the effect overtime would be. The result? More interaction with Disney princesses led to more female gender-stereotypical behavior at the end of the year.

"If we're fully jumping in here and really embracing it, parents should really consider the long-term impact of the princess culture," Coyne told BYU. And though such "gendered behavior" does not prove problematic for boys because the princesses "provide a needed counterbalance to the hyper-masculine superhero media," it does, however, prove to have a negative impact on girls because said princesses often become their first "role models."

Princess Evolution

Tumblr/Pragmatique

But, that's not to say parents should completely cut out princesses from their daughters' lives, Coyne tells TIME, instead she advises them to "have your kids involved in all sorts of activities, and just have princesses be one of many, many things that they like to do and engage with."

Because, after all, some children prefer other things anyway:

Check out Linda Woolverton, screenwriter of "Beauty and the Beast," in her exclusive MAKERS interview in the video player above to see how she helped Disney's Belle break down gender stereotypes.

NEXT: This Is Your Brain "On Princess" »

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Photo Credit: S Granitz/Wire Image/Getty Images