Many Mormons love Disney. And what's not to love about family-friendly films that teach little kids to be kind and strive for their dreams? But parents might want to be aware of some of the dangers that come with "princess culture" so they can know how to create realistic expectations for their children, especially their daughters.
Disney princesses typically have some great traits, including kindness and decency. But little girls who embrace "princess culture" may stereotype and limit themselves, according to new BYU research published in the journal Child Development.
"Feminine behavior can be great on so many dimensions, like being kind and nurturing," said lead author Sarah Coyne, an associate professor of human development in the Brigham Young University's School of Family Life. "But girls can be limited by stereotypes in a number of ways. They can think they can't do well in math and science or they don't want a career," or choose not to take risks or explore or do new things, for fear they're not feminine enough or they'll get dirty.
Boys, on the other hand, may get some benefit from what the researchers call "greater female stereotypical behavior." Superheroes are often a little boy's first media role model, so paying attention to the princess image provides a softening counterbalance, the study said.
The princess stereotype may also set girls up for unrealistic notions of what an ideal female looks like. That's especially problematic, Coyne said, because little girls who have poor "body esteem" are among the most ardent admirers of Disney princesses.