Brief Report

Sex Roles

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 287-294

First online:

Ken and Barbie at life size

  • Kevin I. NortonAffiliated withCentre for Research and Education in Sport Science, School of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Studies, University of South Australia
  • , Timothy S. OldsAffiliated withUniversity of New South Wales
  • , Scott OliveAffiliated withUniversity of New South Wales
  • , Stephen DankAffiliated withUniversity of New South Wales

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There has been considerable discussion in both the scientific literature and general media concerning the appropriateness of the body shape and proportions of the Ken and Barbie dolls, the most popular dolls in modern history. The greatest concern has been of the possible influence that these, and other “cultural ideals” for body shape, may have on young children. However, these concerns have been based entirely on the subjective interpretation of how one perceives the body dimensions of the dolls relative to an adult size. We therefore used our skills in anthropometry and the rules of allometry to scale the dolls to an adult height to determine the dimensions that these dolls would assume at this adjusted size. These were compared to actual proportions of several representative adult groups of predominantly Anglo-Australian males and females. The critics have been justified in their opinions since both Barbie and Ken are thin relative to the reference samples. Barbie's mean girth z-score relative to a reference cross-section of the young adult population was −4.2. This indicates that the probability for such a body shape is less than 1 in 100,000. Ken is more realistic at about 1 in 50.