Study results show that Disney princesses can boost children’s self-esteem

Photo credit: Brian McGowan / Unsplash

Since the premiere of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, Disney princesses have conquered children’s hearts.

While their effects are largely seen as positive, some parents have raised concerns about their influence on children’s body image and gender roles.

New research from the University of California, Davis suggests that these popular characters can actually boost children’s confidence in their own bodies and promote diversity in play.


The study, titled “Ariel, Aurora or Anna? “Disney Princess Height as a Predictor of Body Esteem and Gendered Play in Early Childhood” was led by Jane Shawcroft, a graduate student at UC Davis.

The study, conducted from 2020 to 2021, included 340 children and their caregivers in the Denver area.

The researchers categorized the princesses by their body type – thin, average and above average/heavy – and assessed their influence on the children’s body image and choice of games.

Body appreciation

The study found that children who preferred princesses with average body types like Moana had higher body confidence a year later than children who preferred princesses with other body types.

Shawcroft suggests that this may be because princesses of average height are portrayed as physically active in their stories.

“For these princesses, their stories are more about what they can do with their bodies than what their bodies look like,” she says.

Gender specific game

Additionally, the research found that children who preferred princesses with average body types were more likely to engage in different types of play, regardless of gender norms.

According to the study, these effects were particularly significant among children who often pretended to be princesses in their games.

Princesses do no harm

Importantly, the study found that owning a favorite princess with a thin body did not have a negative impact on children’s body image or gender play.

Instead, the benefits of favoring an average-sized princess were described as having a “protective effect,” boosting children’s body confidence and giving them the freedom to engage in different types of play.


Shawcroft argues that Disney princesses have greater meaning than most people realize, especially for children of both genders.

“Disney princesses are really important for young children, and we should also recognize that media that focuses on women and tells women’s stories is important,” she says.

While the debate over the influence of Disney princesses on children continues, this research suggests that these characters could be more of a blessing than a curse, at least when it comes to encouraging body confidence and varied play.

If you care about child development, please read studies showing that cats can help reduce anxiety in children with autism and that new studies may develop a better treatment for autism

For more health information, check out recent studies on how to achieve a healthy brain through diet. The results show that these types of foods may contribute to autism.

The research results can be found in the Psychology of popular media.

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Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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