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Thin Dolls Adding to Body Image Issues for Young Girls

Playing with ultra thin dolls can affect how girls, even those as young as 5, perceive body image. This is suggested in new research which also looked into the effect of images on film, TV and social media of the ‘ideal’ female form.

Professor Lynda Boothroyd, from Durham University’s Department of Psychology, said:

“Body dissatisfaction is a huge problem, particularly amongst young girls. It can have serious consequences for girls’ wellbeing and lead to eating disorders and depression.

“The results from our study indicate that playing with ultra-thin dolls, which are sold in the millions each year, could have a real negative impact on girls’ body image. This is on top of all the images of unrealistic body sizes they see on TV, in films and on social media.

“This is something that needs to be addressed in order to reduce the pressure on girls and women to aspire to a ‘thin ideal body’.”

Dr Elizabeth Evans, from Newcastle University’s School of Psychology, said:

“This study isn’t intended to make parents feel guilty about what’s in their child’s toy box, and it certainly isn’t trying to suggest that ultra-thin dolls are ‘bad’.

“What our study provides is useful information that parents can take into account when making decisions about toys.

“Ultra-thin dolls are part of a bigger picture of body pressures that young children experience, and awareness of these pressures is really important to help support and encourage positive body image in our children.”

Although the samples were not large, this research unusually tested the children before and after doll play which means it can show actual change within individual children. As such, it contributes to a growing number of studies which demonstrate that doll play may affect the beauty ideals that young girls internalise.

Professor Martin Tovee, from Northumbria University’s Department of Psychology, said:

“Our study shows how perception of ideal body size and shape is moulded from our earliest years to expect unrealistic ideals. This creates an inevitable body image dissatisfaction which is already known to lead towards disordered eating.”

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