What All Parents Need to Know About the Princess Phase

Something that can be seen as inherently harmless and wholesome for children can actually stir up a major debate among parents: the magical world of princesses.

Many adults are completely against the princess phase and work to shield their daughters from what they see as a land of pink, weak role models, female stereotypes, and warped romantic relationships. Others completely disagree and view these beloved characters as innocent fun for their kids to explore, develop their imagination, and learn life lessons. Although new research from Brigham Young University points to potential long-term risks of going through the princess phase, author Jerramy Fine stands up for the empowering aspects of princesses in her book, In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women.

Like every story, the tales from the royal kingdom have more than one side and aren't solely good . . . or evil. Here, try to understand all aspects of the princess phase before deciding what is right for your own children.

The Good
Flickr user P & K's Mommy

The Good

  • Playing with dolls and dressing up encourages imagination and fosters creativity amongst children.
  • The ladies involved in this unstructured play are nonviolent role models.
  • These stories promote true love.
  • The themes focus on the importance of treating people with kindness and having a good attitude.
  • Allowing children to unabashedly play in the princess world also teaches them that "girl things" aren't inherently bad or inferior.
  • The stories, characters, and different ways of life help to expand their world view from a young age.
  • All princesses aren't just waiting on their prince — many are also free-spirited, brave, and determined.
The Bad
Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones

The Bad

  • The magical land of princesses plays into consumerism with little ones wanting an excess of items and accessories that encompass the theme — as well as the different outfits to dress the part.
  • Depending on how the stories are interpreted, they definitely play up gender stereotypes and portray females as weak and limited by their ballgowns.
  • With a focus on the outfits and perfection, the princess phase can also promote unrealistic body images.
  • The princess stories can encourage a false sense of security that everything always works out in the end, no matter what.
The Ugly
Flickr user Serena

The Ugly

  • What kids play with and idolize as small children can have an impact on them in later life, especially well-intentioned Disney princesses.
  • According to a recent study from Brigham Young University, exposure to Disney princess culture can cause kids to be more likely to fall into limiting stereotypes.
  • For both boys and girls, more interaction with Disney princesses predicted increased female stereotypical behavior, meaning girls might avoid opportunities or life experiences as they get older because they don't view them as feminine or appropriate.
  • The study's lead researcher said that girls who strongly identify with those female stereotypes feel like they can't do some things, aren't as confident that they can succeed in certain subjects, don't like getting dirty, and are less likely to try things.