Ken and Barbie at life size

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Kevin I. Norton.

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Special thanks to Melissa Clough, Brendon Dews, Loretta Downie, Judy Morris, and Kim Birchall.

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Norton, K.I., Olds, T.S., Olive, S. et al. Ken and Barbie at life size. Sex Roles 34, 287–294 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01544300

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Adult Population
  • Scientific Literature
  • Reference Sample
  • Body Shape