Barbie, the career killer: How fashion doll's sexually mature shape and pretty face can limit a young girl's dream job choices

By Misty White Sidell


Girls who play with Barbie dolls have a narrower outlook on career possibilities for women, according to a new university study.

Thirty-seven young girls between the ages of four and seven were randomly assigned to play with either a fashion Barbie, a career-driven doctor Barbie, or a ‘more neutral’ Mrs Potato Head doll for ten minutes.

The girls, all of which hailed from the Pacific Northwest, were then shown photos of ten occupations and were asked which ones they could do, as well as which ones boys could do in the future.

Detrimental to girls? A new study unearths how young girls who play with Barbies have a narrower idea of career possibilities for women as a result

Detrimental to girls? A new study unearths how young girls who play with Barbies have a narrower idea of career possibilities for women as a result

The results, published in Springer’s Sex Roles journal, display how the children who were exposed to either the fashion Barbie or career-driven doctor Barbie were much more likely to see themselves in fewer occupations than boys.

The girls who played with the Mrs Potato Head doll however ‘reported nearly as many career opportunities available for themselves as for boys,’ reads a statement announcing the study’s findings.

 

Research was conducted by Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University and Eileen Zurbriggen of the University of Santa Cruz and was spurred by their growing social interest in how young women are feeling increasingly pressured to be ‘sexy’.

Both women consider their study’s results to be ‘sobering’.

‘Perhaps Barbie can “Be Anything” as the advertising for this doll suggests, but girls who play with her may not apply these possibilities to themselves,’ Ms Sherman said in the statement.

She suggests that Barbie, as well as similar dolls, place an inappropriately early sexual burden on young girls, saying: ‘Something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes the difference in career aspirations.’

She and Ms Zurbriggen feel that Barbie’s sexually mature body and facial appearance might be her psychologically-limiting culprit, considering that the dolls’ clothing differences did not have an effect on the children’s occupational opinions.

Mattel said that the study seemed to be have carried out to reinforce the scientist’s views about its Barbies.

A spokesman added: ‘We know from years of consumer research that play is a positive force that encourages a child's creativity and imagination. 

‘There are generations of girls who played with Barbie, pursued their ambitions and achieved their dreams.’

The comments below have not been moderated.

I had every Barbie doll I could get my hands on! I dreamed of being, in no particular order: an astronaut, a doctor, a Disney animator, an oceanographer, and an ambassador. Now I'm an attorney. I think these things have more to do with how you're raised and the way your parents speak to you.

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One day i want to grow up and look like a piece from my favourite lego...

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These studies are irrelevant after they have played with the doll like a normal child does they will abandon it and when they grow up they will decide what they want to look like .. And not crave to look like a barbie doll! Thats just stupid!

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For gods sake its a doll. So whats the results for kids who play with stretch armstrong, power rangers, teddy bears and blocks???!

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They can tell this all from having a few girls play with Barbi for 10 minutes, eh? Cue the millions of parents stampeding to the lawyers' offices to sue Mattel over their girls being traumatized by Barbi, (snicker.)

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I played with Barbies when I was a kid, also toy cars and meccano; and I grew up to be a software engineer, do I don't think Barbie did me any harm!

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Since when did barbie get eyelashes?

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I did all these 'Roids to look like HeMan...

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Well then I guess it's a good thing that 4-7 year old girls don't have to choose their career yet. I suspect they'll be fine by the time that they do. . . .

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Bull. I played with Barbie, back when her only career was a fashion model and being Ken's girlfriend. My childhood dream career was to be a veterinarian.

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