Playing Princess: Preschool Girls’ Interpretations of Gender Stereotypes in Disney Princess Media
- 8.3k Downloads
Through their 11 official princesses, Disney circulates powerful and consistent messages regarding gender norms and roles. Inspired by the princesses’ ubiquity in the lives of young girls, we examined how preschool girls interpreted gender-role stereotypes in Disney Princess media both through their pretend play behaviors and their discussions of the princesses. Participants included 31 3- to 5-year-old girls who represented an array of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and who came from four classes at two preschools in rural New England. Data collected from a variety of methods, including pretend play observations, semi-structured interviews, and parent questionnaires revealed participants’ stereotypical beliefs about the princesses and their adherence to gendered behaviors when enacting the princesses. Thematic analyses identified four themes that defined the participants’ princess play: beauty, focus on clothing and accessories, princess body movements, and exclusion of boys. The implications of gendered princess play are discussed in relation to the social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Based on the outcomes of our study, parents and educators might reconsider the type and amount of media they provide their children, acknowledging the effects of these images on their children’s behaviors and understandings of gender.
KeywordsDisney princesses Gender stereotypes Head Start Preschool Play Qualitative analysis
We wish to thank Jennifer Gonzalez, Veronika Mak, and the teachers and children who participated in the study.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in these studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research board. No studies involving animals were performed.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Parents provided written informed consent for their minor children, and children provided verbal assent before the initiation of the study.
- APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the sexualization of girls. http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf. Accessed 13 Feb 2015.
- Blaise, M. (2005a). Playing it straight: Uncovering gender discourses in the early childhood classroom. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2003). The importance of being playful. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 50–53.Google Scholar
- Coyne, S. M., Linder, J. R., Rasmussen, E. E., Nelson, D. A., & Birkbeck, V. (2016). Pretty as a princess: Longitudinal effects of engagement with Disney princesses on gender stereotypes, body esteem, and prosocial behavior in children. Child Development, 87(6), 1909–1925. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12569.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Davies, B. (2003). Frogs and snails and feminist tales: Preschool children and gender. Cresskill: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
- Del Vecho, P. (Producer), & Clements R., & Musker J. (Directors). (2009). The princess and the frog (motion picture). Burbank: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.Google Scholar
- Disney (2007). Disney Consumer Products continues strong growth at retail (Press Release). https://www.disneyconsumerproducts.com/Home/display.jsp?contentId=399931. Accessed 8 Feb 2015.
- Disney (2015). Disney Princess. http://princess.disney.com. Accessed 3 May 2015
- Fought, C., & Eisenhauer, K. (2015, December). A quantitative analysis of gendered compliments in Disney Princess films. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the linguistic society of America. DC: Washington.Google Scholar
- Girls Inc. (2006). The supergirl dilemma: Girls grapple with the mounting pressure of expectations. http://www.girlsinc-monroe.org/styles/girlsinc/defiles/The%20Supergirl%20Dilemma--Summary%20Findings--low%20res.pdf. Accessed 13 Feb 2015.
- Giroux, H. A., & Pollock, G. (2010). The mouse that roared: Disney and the end of innocence. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Kohlberg, L. (1966). A cognitive-developmental analysis of children's sex-role concepts and attitudes. In E. E. Maccoby (Ed.), The development of sex differences (pp. 82–173). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Lamb, S., & Brown, L. (2006). Packaging girlhood: Rescuing our daughters from marketers' schemes. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
- Linn, S. (2009). A royal juggernaut: The Disney princesses and other commercialized threats to creative play and the path to self-realization for young girls. In S. Olfman (Ed.), The sexualization of childhood (pp. 33–50). Westport: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
- Maccoby, E. E. (1998). The two sexes: Growing up apart, coming together. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Marcotte, D., Fortin, L., Potvin, P., & Papillon, M. (2002). Gender differences in depressive symptoms during adolescence: Role of gender-typed characteristics, self-esteem, body image, stressful life events, and pubertal status. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 10(1), 29–42. doi: 10.1177/106342660201000104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Masolova, K. (2016). 44 entertainment/character brands make the $100 million list. The Licensing Letter. http://www.thelicensingletter.com/44-entertainmentcharacter-brands-make-the-100-million-list/. Accessed 6 Feb 2017.
- Orenstein, P. (2011). Cinderella ate my daughter: Dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
- Ramsey, P. G. (1998). Teaching and learning in a diverse world: Multicultural education for young children (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Wiersma, B. A. (2000). The gendered world of Disney: A content analysis of gender themes in full-length animated Disney feature films. Dissertation Abstracts International. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304622205. Accessed 23 March 2017.