When it comes to body image, new and diverse toys may help broaden children’s ideas and perspectives of what is considered ‘good,’ according to sociologists.
A new line of Barbie dolls was announced last week by Mattel, a multinational toy manufacturing company founded in 1945. According to Mattel officials, the dolls will have 22 eye colours, seven skin tones, and 24 hairstyles. The Barbie dolls include body types, such as tall, petite, and curvy.
Lego spokesman Michael McNally also said that this June, Lego will sell a minifigure in a wheelchair in its new “Fun in the Park” building set.
Kjerstin Gruys, a postdoctoral scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, said that boys and girls should learn from a young age that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, as well as colours and textures. More diverse toys may help children have a healthier body image, especially as they get older, Gruys explained.
In a 2006 study published in the journal Development Psychology, the researchers asked 162 girls ages five to eight, to look at images of Emma dolls (with more diverse and realistic body shapes), Barbie dolls, or no dolls. Then, they asked them questions about body image.
The results showed that the girls who looked at Barbie dolls said that they had lower body esteem after playtime. According to Gruys, body dissatisfaction especially at such a young age may lead to unhealthy eating behaviours, which could eventually turn into an eating disorder.
Elizabeth Sweet, a lecturer of sociology at the University of California, Davis, said that a study conducted in 2014 (published in the journal Sex Roles) found a link between career outcomes and playing with stereotypically, highly feminised toys, such as Barbie dolls.
In the study, 37 girls ages four to six, played with a Mrs. Potato Head, Fashion a Barbie, and a Doctor Barbie. When asked about whether girls or boys could do specific jobs, the girls who played with the Mrs. Potato Head said that girls could do more jobs, compared with girls who played with the Barbie dolls, according to the researches.
Sweet said that more diversity among Barbie dolls is a real step forward. Makies, a U.K. doll company, has also made dolls with birthmarks, walking canes, hearing aids, as well as dolls that have more realistic body types.
Image Source: thewomanoman