Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Is Barbie a dangerous role model?

A growing number of girls are now developing disordered eating behaviors during elementary and middle school. So we have to ask, what is encouraging pre-teens to question their body and turn to extreme dieting? There is certainly pressure from the media to be thin, but some of the girls presenting with anorexia nervosa are not at the stage where they read fashion publications and their parents still restrict TV viewing. For girls still playing with their dolls, some say Barbie might be the problem. 

While Barbie might seem like an innocent toy to some, when you consider how far removed her figure is from that of a real women, some mental health specialists are beginning to reconsider how potentially dangerous an influence she is on young female minds.

During the 1960s a version of Barbie controversially came with a set of scales and a weight loss guide. You can't buy this Barbie from the shelves any longer, but even if she doesn't come with the accessories that encourage weight loss, her figure certainly promotes that message. When you consider that the average woman could never achieve Barbie's figure, is it right that young girls are exposed to the idea that this is how women should look? The ultra thin models teens see on a weekly basis in magazines aren't much better, as most models are so underweight and they technically have anorexia. Impressionable young women view these fashion models as having the figure they need to attain, but they forget that the images they see in print are also adjusted by airbrushing, so they could never attain the same appearance even with highly restrictive eating habits. To minimize the risk of eating disorders through exposure to unrealistic female bodies, it is vital we raise awareness of how far from the norm these figures actually are.

Mr. Mike Kelly, the content editor at Steps to Recovery, an addiction treatment facility in Pennsylvania, and his colleague Amy, recently produced an article that discusses the near impossible body image that Barbie dolls represent. Their research article shares shocking statistics and insights of how the portrayal of a thin body image has devastating effects on young girls and women, and can sometimes lead to eating disorders. Very interesting indeed. They asked if I would be willing to share the article with you all, and due to the topic being near and dear to my heart, I wanted to pass it along.

If you have a few extra moments, you can check the article out here:

Some good food for thought. I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions. . . 

Have a great week!


  1. I think Barbie is ridiculous, personally. My girls have some of my old ones but so far at least have no interest in them. If I suspected they were taking away a message about how they should look because of how Barbie looks, we wouldn't have them in the house. Growing up, I'm not sure how much I felt like I *should* look like Barbie, but I certainly wouldn't have been harmed by NOT having her around either. I think that positive role models are important to offset any negative effects from things like Barbie, unrealistic images of Disney princesses, etc etc.

    1. It is all so interesting to me. I played with Barbies and obviously struggled with self image and eating issues, although I never remember holding Barbie in some light of a figure I wanted to attain. My sisters also had Barbies and have never had any issues around self image/food. I agree that parents need to be in tune and responsible to sense any negativity from toys/media etc and offset those messages.

  2. My Mom never allowed me to play with barbies because of the negative image she felt they portrayed. I don't remember missing them either, perhaps because I never had any friends who were super into barbies? Have you seen the new Lammily doll? I think she's great! Here's a video of second graders reacting to Lammily that I thought you'd like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jue_JlxnPGM


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