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Fairytale’s Found To Have ‘Positive Impact’ On Children – But Study Sparks Fierce Debate Over Princess Diversity – Netmums


Fairytales found to have ‘positive impact’ on children – but study sparks fierce debate over princess diversity

First published on Tuesday 27 July 2021
Last modified on Tuesday 27 July 2021

Jessica Powell

A new university study has said ‘princess culture’ has a positive impact on child development BUT some parents say the lack of diversity is still a massive issue

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Designer daddy makes his little girl a Disney princess

Cinderella, Tiana, Elsa, Fiona… every child has their favourite fairytale princess.

And, according to a new study, their influence could extend way beyond a child’s choice of fancy dress.

The research from Brigham Young University found that engaging with ‘princess culture’ had a positive impact on child development – with children who do being more likely to later have positive ideas about women and less likely to think men should dominate in society.

‘Princess culture gives women key storylines where they’re following their dreams, helping those around them, and becoming individuals who aren’t prescribed a role because of their gender,’ said BYU professor Sarah Coyne, who carried out the research, citing recent princesses such as Moana and Elsa who’ve broken the classic Disney mould.

The study – which surveyed more than 300 children and their parents first in their preschool years and five years later – found girls who engaged with princess culture during their early years were more likely to view educational opportunities, relationships, and careers as being equally important for women and men.

Plus, it was also associated with developing a positive body image. Yup, even with all those microscopic waists!

And it wasn’t just girls that were found to benefit:

‘Boys who are exposed to princess culture earlier in life tend to do a better job expressing emotion in their relationships,’ said Coyne. ‘Rather than shutting down their feelings or feeling like they should fight someone who challenges them, they can express their emotions in non-violent ways.’

However, the findings of the research have sparked heated debate among parents.

On Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, journalist and diversity advocate Ateh Jewel argued that the lack of representation in princess stories was still a huge problem.

Fairytale Princesses have long been criticised for giving children bad role models but new research has found princesses play a positive role in child development.

So are fairytale princesses good role models?

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB)

Ateh said:

‘I grew up watching Disney Princesses and I also grew up hating my hair, feeling cursed I had darker skin, and I have 10-year-old twin daughters.

‘When they were about three, when the first Frozen came out, they said to me it was such a shame they couldn’t be princesses as they didn’t have straight ‘yellow’ hair, they could only be maids as they have curly brown hair.

‘That’s when I woke up and thought we need to do better and I really had to think about and reset the button on what princesses represent because they didn’t represent my daughters.

‘The frog princesses which is the closest thing they have to represent them is an animal for most of the film.’

Stephanie Hill, a former Miss United Kingdom winner who dresses up as princesses for parties – who also joined the debate – agreed with the opinion that there’s more to do in regards to diversity, but said she didn’t think kids would be especially aware of the body types of princesses.

‘Maybe we should give our children a little bit more credit. They are able to distinguish between fiction and reality and understand that these are cartoon characters and although they have quite disproportionate bodies, actually they are taking away the stories of these princess franchises.’

‘Maybe we should give our children a little bit more credit.’

Stephanie Hill says more diversity was needed earlier but children are able to ‘distinguish between fantasy and reality’ and they can ‘take away lessons’ from the princesses.

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB)

Parents have taken to Twitter to share their take on the debate. One user who shared Ateh’s concerns said:

‘Totally agree with you… I’m white British and it never occurred to me either until my niece was obsessed with long, blonde hair and hated her dark curly hair. It definitely broke my heart to hear her say she hated her hair so passionately.’

Others felt that fairytales shouldn’t be the place kids go for role models.

‘Role model? Fairy tales are just that. Fairy tales. Stories. That’s like asking is Dracula a good role model,’ said one.

Want to teach your kids about diversity? Why not read them It’s OK to be Different: A Children’s Picture Book About Diversity and Kindness. See more details here at Amazon.

What do you think? Let us know on the chat thread below…

This content was originally published here.

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