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The Barbie Effect: Is Barbie Good or Bad for Young Girls?

The Barbie Effect: Is Barbie Good or Bad for Young Girls?

Dolls have been entertaining children for millennia, but the scrutiny that parents shower upon them may well be a new phenomenon. From Peggy Orenstein's newly released book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, to the many Circle of Moms conversations about popular toys like the Bratz dolls, modern moms are particularly interested in how a girl's toys shape her perception of the world and herself. Moms seem to have particularly strong views on Barbie, with numerous Circle of Moms members debating whether she's an unequivocally bad influence on their little girls.

Why Moms are Anti-Barbie

Several Circle of Moms members vehemently argued that Barbie's unrealistic body proportions make her an indisputably bad influence on young children. As Julianne M., mom to one daughter, explained, "A doll with huge breasts is not appropriate for a little girl to play with, especially since Barbie has a tiny waist and thin hips. It teaches young girls to have unrealistic expectations of their own bodies. When they are older, they may have low self-esteem because of it." Other moms, including Vickie T., a mother of one son, voiced the opinion that Barbie dolls set a poor example for boys as well: "Barbies and princesses are such unhealthy, unrealistic examples of women that I wouldn't encourage them for children, regardless of their sex."

Why Moms are Pro-Barbie

Not all moms are anti-Barbie, however. Many Circle of Moms members allow their children to play with the dolls, citing three main reasons.


First, moms argue that Barbie's negative effect on self-esteem is exaggerated. "It's just a doll," argued mother of three Teresa, who herself played with Barbies and feels there was no negative impact. She added, "I really don't think many 5–7 year olds...actually analyze Barbie's breast size." Paula C. expressed a similar view: "My daughter played with Barbie and Bratz. She does not dress like Bratz now (she's 11) nor does she expect to be built like Barbie."

Other moms perceive Barbie as a positive creative influence. "I see them as a toy that promotes creative play," shared Jodi A., a mother of four children. "My daughter has several Barbie dolls, as well as a dollhouse for them…She also designs her own clothes for Barbie out of pieces of fabric, ribbon, elastic bands, and any other bits and pieces she can find. It really has stimulated her imagination in a positive way."

Still other moms, including Calgary mom Becky F., suggested yet another potential Barbie benefit—exposing young girls to diverse career options: "The thing I like about Barbie is that she has so many careers, including more traditionally male-dominated careers. She teaches little girls that they can be anything they want to be.

Want to share your opinion about Barbies, Bratz or other children's toys?

Whether you're interested in debating the merits of Barbie dolls, trading recommendations on Barbie movies, or discussing gender-specific toys, Circle of Moms is home to diverse, age-specific and debating communities where you can connect with other moms about all kinds of parenting topics.

Image Source: littlewizard91 via Flickr/Creative Commons

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