Influence of Barbie dolls on young children’s
Hina Aziz
Cultural Studies MS-12
Mphil Cultural Studies term 1st
Farida Batool
National College of Arts
This research report will define opinion and response of the viewers about Barbie and its influence on young girls. Survey research method has been used for the analysis. The literature review indicates that girl’s mostly young girls are influenced by Barbie and the charm which is shown in Barbie cartoon movies. Young girls are very much influenced by Barbie and they try to adopt their professions shown in media. Girls want to be like Barbie, in literature it is studied that some girls have gone through several surgeries to have a figure as Barbie’s. Young girls are living more in fantasy of Barbie and princesses then in reality.

Introduction and backgroundThe company Mattel which currently owns the rights to the Barbie doll was originally created to produce picture frames in 1945. The Barbie doll invention was created by Ruth Handler in 1959. Handler watched her daughter Barbara plays with paper dolls as a child and wanted to create a doll in which her daughter could be imaginative with. When taking a trip to Europe, Handler purchased a doll named, “Bild Lilli,” which was supposed to be used as a gag gift for adults (Lars). After returning to the United States, Handler began to redesign the doll and worked with a designer to help create doll clothes. Handler named the doll Barbie after her daughter, Barbara. The Barbie doll was presented to society on March 9th, 1959 at the toy fair in New York City. Within the first eight years that the Barbie doll was out on the market, Mattel sold over 500 million Barbie dolls (Ruth). Due to the success of the first Barbie doll, the second doll created soon after called Ken which was named after Handler’s son, Ken. The company originally created the Barbie doll as a source of amusement for young children (Inventor). The Barbie doll was placed in the “America’s Time Capsule,” in celebration of the Bicentennial in 1976. This decision was made in order to reveal the impact of the Barbie in society. Barbie is one of the few dolls whose image and careers change regularly according to the way our society works. Although some people may argue that the Barbie doll is a negative influence on young girls, some people on the other hand insist that Barbie inspires young children to create their own identity. Barbie may portray the image that all women need to have a slimming body, sparkling white teeth, and can get whatever they wants by using their gorgeous looks, yet because the Barbie doll can be purchased in a variety of careers, personalities, and lifestyles. Mattel, the Barbie doll creators, are sending the message to children that they can grow up to be whatever they would like to be. Many Mattel customers will argue that the doll has no negative influence and is just a source of amusement for young girls, while others may argue that this type of amusement is affecting their children and society in general, making people think they in order to retrieve something a women wants, they need to make themselves into a human, “Barbie doll.” the term ‘Barbie Generation’ is used. It defines the new generation of the young girls who are influenced by the new Plastic Model named as Barbie. They are that much influenced that they made their lives according to Barbie’s lifestyle, and they want their daily routine and daily make over to be like her. In their daily routine they want their each and everything to be in Barbie color i.e. pink. They are so inspired from Barbie fairy tales that they live in the world of fantasy and are most likely to be out of the real world. Due to Barbie they are so gender specified in their cultural roles, make over, professional life, educational career and selection of colour, etc.
Many parents criticize Barbie dolls and are not happy with the over spreading virus named Barbie among young girls. The reason of their criticism is that they don’t want their children to live in a world of imagination and fantasy. They want their children to be realistic and face the real world. They do not want their children to be gender specific; in fact they want them to be gender free kids and humans in real life. They should know the real ups and downs of life, they should not be that much influenced from the doll so that they go for several surgeries and go for severe dieting and suffer from malnutrition. As the parents said that the girl kids are more influenced as they most probably go for pink colour, they want to increase and sharpen their nails, want their body figured in the way the Barbie doll is, they want their bodies to be skinny and tall like the dolls are seen. And parents also think that this is a doll that stereotypes the culture, norms, roles and all other professions, and selections of their clothes or selection of colors and have negative effect on their children. But there are some parents who do not think Barbie have any negative effect on their kids, they think it is just a doll and one should not criticize it or blame it for spoiling children.

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The reason to select this topic is that it is noticed that many girl Childs are fully influenced by Barbie and its thousand many roles and movies. I wanted to know how much our society is affected by Barbie or it is some rumor and to see whether the Barbie Generation exists in our society or not. If yes, then what are the major things they are more influenced or inspired by. I wanted to have a session with some kids who are influenced and wanted to speak to them, know their views, notice their behaviors, and see how much they live in this realistic world. All I wanted to know is the affect of Barbie on kids and the ‘Barbie Generations’ existences within our surroundings.

Every men dreams a perfect women and every women want a beautiful and perfect Barbie figure , 6 Feet tall, weighs 100 pounds, and her sizes are 39-19-33.the children toy first created in 1959 known as Barbie become role model for all girls. She was perfectly skinny, had a perfect boyfriend and family, perfect hair, perfect house, perfectly perfect. Young girls having age of 3-11 have at least 10 Barbie doll and play most of time with them and influenced by them. Every girl in society is pressure to look and act properly. So every girl have made an ideal image of girl as Barbie with whom they have started playing when they were only 1.they have made a specific image of Barbie who is popular , beautiful, happy and perfect all the time. So naturally most of girls are beginning to want to be just like Barbie, happy and perfect all the time. It’s estimated that 8 million people in the United States has an eating disorder, and only 10-15% of them are male. Which leaves the 85- 90% of them to be female. And 80% of those females are under the age of 20. Many admitted that girls age of 4 and 6 start worrying about their weight and many girls have faced eating disorder, that Barbie played a huge role on their influences in behavior and looks. And think that wonderful life is to be just like Barbie, with the super skinny look. Of course, it’s not all about the weight. Barbie is also known for her perfect looks. Hair, makeup, clothes the works. These also lead girls to spending hours globing on makeup, destroying their hair with dye and strengtheners and curling irons, and begging their parents for clothes from the most expensive and popular stores to try to achieve this perfect look. Many women also spend lot of dollar to achieve Barbie figure doing plastic surgery, face lifts, and having a professional stylist for every day. One such woman is named Sarah Burge and she’s from the UK. She spent over 1 million dollars just to achieve that Barbie look. She is teaching young girls everywhere exactly what Barbie is teaching them, in order to be fabulous, you have to be perfect. Many people spend millions of money to make house look like Barbie and complete with swimming pools, chandeliers in the bathrooms, and the Barbie logo plastered all over the walls overall, Barbie does not have the best effect on young girls, and that later carries on through the rest of their life. Barbie’s effect has caused bankruptcy, low self-esteem, and eating disorders leading to death. This beautiful doll gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “if looks could kill.” (Dipity, 2010)
The article mentioned that there has been conducted an experimental study on young girls of age 6-10 years playing with thin skinny dolls and its effect on their body image and food intake. These girls were randomly assigned to play with a thin doll in no control condition. After 10 mints a taste-test was conducted and a questionnaire was filled about body image no differences were found in the body variables, however, girls who played with the average-sized doll ate significantly more food than girls in other exposure conditions. There was no support of the assumption that girls who played with thin dolls have affected their food intake in these young girls and that girls were influenced with thin body image. (Anschutz and Engels, 2010).This article is posted on November 30, 2013 by Kathleen in this article is Barbie the Ideal Role Model for Young Girls? At eye level of little girls, to me these Barbie dolls were telling all the little girls who saw them that if they want to be pretty, they have to look, dress, and act like them. There are many women I look up to, and they are all beautiful to me, nevertheless, NONE of them look like Barbie. To look like Barbie? Girls look to Barbie as a role model. She’s an image the media is trying to sell as “perfect” beauty, yet only 8 people OUT OF 3 BILLION people on this earth look anything like her! Almost NO ONE looks like her, yet advertisers, magazines, and the media bomb girls with the deceptive messages, clearly trying to convince them that they can only be beautiful if they are thin trying to sell them that they have to look like “Barbie.” Do we have to have a certain color of hair, be a certain weight, or be a certain size to be considered “beautiful”? If a woman had the same measurements as Barbie, she would not have enough body fat to neither menstruate nor bear children. Furthermore, some young adults look to fashion models as their “figure of health” and strive with all their might to become and look just like them. Magazines like to feature images of very thin models, and unfortunately many of these models go to dangerous limits to stay skinny. Many girls feel they have to look a certain way and fit a certain set “model” to have any beauty and be of any worth. Many of the “plus-size” models wear sizes 6-12, which do not reflect the average costumer size, since most plus-size stores don’t even carry sizes below a 14. (Kathleen, 2013)Data representation and Data analysis
The main objective behind this research was to find the effect of Barbie dolls due to technology and media on children in the last two decades. It is a qualitative research. Population was taken from CMA colony Cannt, Lahore Pakistan. Some working women and some girls were randomly taken as sample from CMA colony Cannt Lahore Pakistan. Semi-structured interview were used because my sample was young girls I have to conduct an open-ended interview. At the end I analyze my data to draw results. I did discussion on the responses and drew result. On the basis of which the topic was concluded.

ResultsThe research strategy followed for the qualitative part of my work was based on semi structured interviews. An interview to young girls of aging 5-15 was done.

Karim Jan 47
Name Age Favorite Colour Favorite Toy Ambition Favorite Cartoon Favorite Dress
Diya Qudsia8 Pink Barbie Doll Doctor Barbie Long Gowns
Arooba6 Pink Pooh Doctor Sofia Shirt/jeans
Zonia8 Purple Barbie Doll Teacher Barbie/ tom and jerry Long frocks
Zoya13 Pink Barbie Doll Fashion Designing Rapunzel/tom and jerry Jeans/shirt
Hafza9 Pink Dolls Quran teacher Barbie Barbie Frocks
Zubia9 Pink Barbie doll Doctor Dora Princess frocks
Mahnoor9 Pink Barbie doll Model Barbie Long frocks
Fatima 10 Pink Barbie doll Teacher OggyJeans/shirt
Sunaina4 Pink Barbie doll Super women Tom and jerry Short frocks
Uswa5 Red Dora Doctor Dora Long frocks
DiscussionAs the topic was the “Barbie Generation” and for finding the influence of Barbie on young girls semi-structured interviews were conducted some in which girls were asked some questions about their favorite colour, favorite dress, favorite cartoon character’ future ambition, and their favorite toy. The respondents were young girls and are of age limit of 4-13 that’s why they didn’t answer directly parents have helped a lot with the positive responses.

According to the questions and responses of young girls about Barbie now I am going to analyses the results and answers of young respondent girls. As much I noticed and I asked I came to know that most of the new generation girls are influenced with the Barbie. Some of them were very much influenced, while some were limited to just watching Barbie and playing with them. As we know that the influence of Barbie on them depends on class difference, the upper class children were more influenced rather than middle and lower class children. Their mother’s appearance and her personality also played great role in influencing their kids and putting them in Barbie’s character.
When asked them about their favorite colour most of them answered that ‘Pink’ is their favorite colour. They were that much influenced that they loved their dresses, bed sheets, their room paints, their school bags, their water bottle etc. to be in Pink colour, all because Barbie wears pink and all the stuffs around her is in pink colour. They said that pink is the color that attracts them the most, whenever they shop the stuffs in pink attracts them the most. They like pink color because they are told by their parents, cousins and peer groups that Pink is associated to girls. But some of them didn’t like pink and there was no good reason for liking other colors than pink.
Children especially girls are the audiences who watch television most of the time and play games on laptop or computer. They are most influenced by the Barbie and other cartoon characters being shown on television or other media sources. But the cartoons mostly seen are Dora, Tom and Jerry, Rapunzel, Barbie cartoons, etc. Barbie is the most favorite among the female cartoon character of young girls. She is being the most favorite doll, she along with her every characters, get ups, dresses, hair dos are the things that attracts the young girls. They spent most of their leisure time in watching television, and playing games such as cooking, dressing up Barbie or other dolls, wearing make ups, making hair styles, etc on laptops and computer. These games and other characters of Barbie are influencing stereotypical roles among young girls. They adopt the feminine characters which are shown by them. Children most of the time want the dolls or cartoon characters to be with them physically. So they always have Barbie doll among their toys collection. Most of the respondents said that they have two or three or even more Barbie dolls. They dress them up, wash them, make their hair styles, make them asleep, and even make them their dance partners. They even said that they take those dolls to their beds and make them sleep with themselves.

Children have that much influenced by Barbie that they have adopted it in their daily life activities. They talk like Barbie, they switch to English rather than speaking in their mother-tongue, they dance in the way Barbie does, they walk like her, they wear dresses like her, they want their rooms and beds being decorated in the way Barbie have. They are living in fantasy more than reality. According to literature young girls mostly aging around 4 to 6 definitely have two to three Barbie dolls and spent most of the time playing with them. They discuss Barbie in their peer groups, schools, and other gathering and in this way the other kids of their age are influenced by Barbie. Literature says that some young girls are influenced at the height that they went through several skin surgeries to look like Barbie. They go for severe dieting to obtain Barbie’s figure.
When it came to dress collection or the kind of dresses the loved the most to wear wasn’t of the same style but it was mostly of the same colour Pink. The children said they love wearing short frocks, long gowns, pant shirt, short skirts, etc. But most of the dresses the selected and said to be their favorite among their dresses belonged to dolls like Barbie and Princess Aana. They want to look beautiful in those dresses, wear shoes and heels like the Barbie do. They said they feels better and relax in the dresses they chose for themselves. The media has influenced on them and put it in their minds that they are princess, they are beautiful, they should look good all the time and they should wear dresses like princess do. They are stereotypically treated and represented, they are said to be beautiful, good looking and sensitive to be taken care of.
Some kids have their parents with them, and while interviewing them their parents (mother) helped in answering and gave their views regarding Barbie and its influences on their children. Although some parents may argue that the Barbie doll is a negative influence on their children, some parents on the other hand insist that Barbie inspires their young children to create their own identity. Barbie may portray the image that all women need to have a slimming body, sparkling white teeth, and can get whatever they wants by using their gorgeous looks, yet because the Barbie doll can be purchased in a variety of careers, personalities, and lifestyles. They help them in choosing their professions and field of interests.ConclusionFrom the above mentioned data it is concluded that most of the children are influenced by Barbie and its characters. From the results, findings and research it is concluded that Barbie influences the young girl’s life in many ways, they live in the world of fantasy rather than reality. They are influenced by the stereotypical roles and characters associated with girls. They put themselves in those stereotypic characters. It was discovered that girls are mostly interested in the field of modeling and fashion which is a tremendous change in the thinking of young girls. Even though they were of age 5 to 13 but they were dreaming high and all of this is because of the television and the awareness given in cartoon about different professions.

Limitation Result cannot be generalized because our population was very large and sample size was too small.

As respondents were of small age they were not direct in their answers.

Some Parents didn’t give us permission to talk to their children.

Approach to respondents was limited.

Time and other resources were limited.

Respondents may hide the actual facts.

References:Collins BE. Body figure perceptions and preferences among preadolescent children. The International Journal of Eating Disorders. 1991;10:199–208. doi: 10.1002/1098-108X(199103)10:2<199::AID-EAT2260100209>3.0.CO;2-D.

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Dipity.S.(2010).TheBarbieEffect.Retrievedfrom op_culture_trends/article/175098/The-Barbie-Effect
Villani S. Impact of media on children and adolescents: A 10-year review of the research. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2001;40:392–401. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200104000-00007


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