Skip to main content
Log in


Objective: Barbie, the toy fashion doll, has been subjected to extensive speculation but little empirical investigation as to whether her thin persona exerts a negative influence on the self-image of young girls. The present study was conducted to examine the impact of childhood Barbie play versus other factors on self-image and dieting behaviors of young women. Method: A survey was completed by 254 undergraduate women that included questions about childhood Barbie play, family characteristics, satisfaction with their own appearance, and eating behaviors. Results: Neither age of acquisition or number of Barbies owned had a significant impact on self-evaluations of appearance or on dieting behavior. The strongest predictor of dieting behavior was the women’s recollection of how much physical appearance was valued by her family of origin members.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Hoffman L.: The most popular toys of the last 100 years. Retrieved June 4, 2009, from

  2. Mattel Inc. Barbie facts by the numbers. Retrieved June 19, 2009, from 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Rogers M.F.: Barbie culture. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Kuther T.L., McDonald E.: Early adolescents experiences with, and views of, Barbie. Adolescence, 39, 39–51, 2004.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Nairn A., Griffin C., Wicks P.G.: Children’s use of brand symbolism. European Journal of Marketing, 42, 627–640, 2008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Urla J., Swedlund A.C.: The anthropometry of Barbie: unsettling habits of the feminine body in popular culture. In: Terry J., Urla J. (Eds.), Deviant bodies: critical perspectives on differences in science and popular culture. Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 277–313.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Wright L.: The wonder of Barbie: popular culture and the making of female identity. Essays in Philosophy, 4, 1–27, 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Jessel C.R.: Banishing Barbie. Retrieved June 17, 2009, from

    Google Scholar 

  9. Tiemeyer M.: Barbie, body image and eating disorders: Does Barbie encourage eating disorders? Retrieved June 17, 2009, from

    Google Scholar 

  10. Frederick D.A., Peplau A., Lever J.: The Barbie mystique: satisfaction with breast size and shape across the lifespan. International Journal of Sexual Health, 20, 200–211, 2008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Messner M.A.: Barbie girls versus sea monsters: children constructing gender. Gender and Society, 14, 765–784, 2000.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Pine K.J., Nash A.: Barbie or Betty: preschool children’s preference for branded products and evidence for gender- linked differences. J. Dev. Behav. Pediatr., 24, 219–224, 2003.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Brownell K.D., Napolitano M.A.: Distorting reality for children: body size proportions of Barbie and Ken dolls. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 18, 295–298, 1995.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Norton K.I., Olds T.S., Olive S., Dank S.: Ken and Barbie at life size. Sex Roles, 34, 287–294, 1996.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Pedersen E.L., Markee, N.L.: Fashion dolls: representations of beauty. Percept. Mot. Skills, 73, 93–94, 1991.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Abraham K.G., Lieberman E.: Should Barbie go to preschool? Young Children, 40, 12–14, 1985.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Ditmar H., Halliwell E., Ive S.: Does Barbie make girls want to be thin? The effect of experimental exposure to images of dolls on the body image of 5- to 8-year-old girls. Developmental Psychology, 42, 283–292, 2006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Abrams K.K., Allen L., Gray J.J.: Disordered eating attitudes and behaviors, psychological adjustment, and ethnic identity. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 14, 49–57, 1993.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Joiner G.W., Kashubeck S.: Acculturation, body image, self-esteem, and eating disorder symptomatology in adolescent Mexican-American women. Psychol. Women Q., 20, 419–435, 1996.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Cash T.F.: The Multidmensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire Users’ Manual. Author’s webpage retrieved July 1, 2009,

    Google Scholar 

  21. Rusticus S.A., Hubley A.M.: Validation of two body mage measures for men and women. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, APA, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Miller D.A., McCluskey-Fawcett K., Irving L.M.: Correlates of bulimia nervosa: Early family mealtime experiences. Adolescence, 28, 621–635, 1993.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Worobey J.: Interpersonal versus intrafamilial predictors of maladaptive eating attitudes in young women. Soc. Behav. Pers., 30, 423–434, 2002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Garner D.M., Olmsted M.P., Bohr Y., Garfinkel P.E.: The Eating Attitudes Test: psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12, 871–878, 1982.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Garner D.M., Garfinkel P.E.: The Eating Attitudes Test: an index of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa. Psychological Medicine, 9, 273–279, 1979.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Thompson M.G., Schwartz, D.M.: Life adjustment of women with anorexia nervosa and anorexic-like behavior. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 1, 47–60, 1982.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Worobey J.: Temperament and loving-styles in college women: associations with eating attitudes. Psychol. Rep., 84, 305–311, 1999.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Worobey PhD.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Worobey, J. Barbie at 50: Maligned but benign?. Eat Weight Disord 14, e219–e224 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Key words