An article recently published in the British Psychological Society Am I too fat to be a princess? Examining the effects of popular children’s media on young girls’ body image looks at the effect exposure to appearance-related media has on young girls and how they see their body image. 121 girls participated between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.

The results of the study indicated that exposure did not affect body dissatisfaction or engagement in appearance-related play behaviours.

This is the first empirical study to provide support for previous findings that suggest media exposure does not affect body image in small girls.

In contrast to older girls who fall into the ‘tween’ category, it is possible that younger children may adopt the persona of attractive characters with whom they identify rather than comparing themselves to the characters.  Therefore the see no difference between themselves or the characters they are engaged with.

It is interesting to note though, that although nearly all the girls liked the way they looked, self-report data still indicated that nearly 30% of the participants wanted to change something about their physical appearance, while nearly 50% of the girls worried about being fat.

Exposure to appearance-related media did not seem to exacerbate concerns.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: British Journal of Developmental Psychology (28: 413–426. doi: 10.1348/026151009X424240)