Disney’s blockbusters have fascinated children for generations and many dream of one day looking “as pretty as a princess”.
But scientists now say that Cinderella and Aurora are among myriad characters that do more harm to little boys and girls’ self-esteem.
New research led by the University of California has shed light on the link between a child’s favorite princess’ body shape and their self-confidence.
Because of their slimness, Aurora, Snow White and Cinderella were thought to have a “less positive” impact on a child’s self-esteem.
In contrast, kids who idolize Merida or Moana from Brave were far more confident due to their more “realistic” body type.
New research led by the University of California has shed light on the link between a child’s favorite princess’ body shape and their self-confidence
10 Disney princesses and their body types
- snow white
- Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
- Anna (Frozen)
“Disney princesses are presented to children as ambitious characters,” the authors wrote.
“For example, Disney princesses are often portrayed as extremely thin, and their slenderness is often associated with their desirability (e.g., Snow White is described as the ‘fairest of them all’ and Aurora is blessed with the ‘gift of beauty’ their respective films).
“Thus, Disney films featuring skinny princesses may reinforce the societal narrative that thinness is more socially desirable, or as other writers have written, goodness is equated with thinness.”
As part of their analysis, the researchers looked at a data set of 61 Disney films, with a total of 112 characters ranked by their height.
In general, princesses from older Disney films were classified as “thin” while more modern characters like Merida fell into the “average height” category.
A group of parents was then asked which princess their child most identified with, in addition to other questions about her the adolescent’s perceived self-esteem.
Princess Elsa from Frozen was the clear winner for both the boys and girls, being her favorite at 76 and 94 respectively.
Meanwhile, the “realistic tall” Moana took second place, while ultra-thin princesses like Elsa, Anna and Jasmine also made the top 10.
Overall, experts found that children had a more positive attitude towards their self-esteem when their favorite princess was of average height.
A new study from the University of California says that a child’s favorite princess and self-esteem are linked
Princesses from older Disney films were classified as “thin” while more modern characters like Merida fell into the “average height” category
Kids who adore Merida or Princess Moana from Brave are far more confident
In the California study, “Princess Anna” from “Frozen” was a popular favorite among the children
Snow White was among several princesses classified as “skinny” by researchers
But those with a skinnier favorite princess didn’t have a significant association between the time they spent pretending to be her and their appreciation.
This was the case for both boys and girls, but previous research suggests boys may even be much more influenced by Disney’s princesses.
Psychologist Catherine Hallissey told MailOnline that characters like this can influence longstanding attitudes, even if it goes unnoticed.
“Children and adults are influenced by everything around them. So when kids play with a certain type of toy, it affects their thoughts and attitudes,” she said.
“If that toy is an idealized version of beauty, it has an impact on the child’s perception of beauty and, in turn, how they feel they are living up to that idealized version of beauty.”
“So when a child plays with a toy that has a more realistic body type, the child is more likely to develop a more realistic view of body shape, size and proportions.”
Based on the results, the authors believe that average-sized characters are most beneficial to children, as they serve as a “protective context” for their appreciation.
They wrote, “In particular, depictions of princess height appear to be particularly effective for young children, although our analyzes suggest that thin princesses may not necessarily be harmful to young children.”
“Instead, our results suggest that princesses of average height provide a protective context for children’s body esteem, particularly when they interact with these princesses through role-play.”
“These findings deepen our understanding of the impact of media exposure on the development of body awareness and gender stereotypes in children, and allow us to better understand the role Disney Princesses specifically can play in children’s lives and growth.”
READ MORE: Kids should be taught at school how to build strong relationships to counteract ‘Disneyfied’ depictions of love, scientists claim
If you ask a child what their favorite movie is, chances are they will name a Disney movie like Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin.
However, experts believe these movies give them the wrong idea of what a healthy relationship looks like.
In “Aladdin” the hero abducts Princess Jasmine from the restrictive palace life, while in “Cinderella”, “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty” a young girl is rescued by a “handsome prince”.
Researchers from the University of Exeter surveyed young people and found that they felt a desire to learn skills that would help them build relationships at school.
In “Aladdin” (pictured), the hero kidnaps Princess Jasmine from the restrictive life of the palace. Experts believe Disney movies give the wrong idea of what a healthy relationship looks like