Barbie has been a staple of girlhood for almost 57 years. But a new study published in Body Image shows the iconic doll can have a deleterious effect on young girls' self-esteem.


Researchers Rebecca D. Jellinek, Taryn A. Myers, and Kathleen L. Keller asked 112 girls (ages 6 though 8) to play with either a traditional Barbie or "Tracy," a fuller-figured doll.

The team found that girls who played with Barbie expressed heightened levels of body dissatisfaction after playtime, while those who played with Tracy seemed more at peace with themselves.

"Playing with unrealistically thin dolls may encourage motivation for a thinner shape in young girls," the researchers wrote.

While there's always been speculation about Barbie's impact on young girls, this study's findings are concrete proof that it's not good.

Last year, Common Sense Media found that 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet, and over 50% of girls ages 6 through 8 want slimmer bodies.

Mattel seems to be aware that there's a connection here. In January, the company released its most body-positive line of Barbies yet, including a curvy, tall, and petite doll.

Naturally, Barbie lovers of all ages rejoiced.

"These new Barbies tell us that beauty comes in more than one size," Revelist's April Walloga wrote at the time. "I can’t even imagine all the wonderful ways this small change will manifest in the girls of tomorrow."

Picture of Barbies via Mattel
photo: Courtesy of Mattel

Hopefully, Mattel's move toward inclusivity will prevent further generations of girls from feeling inadequate.

Besides, real girls are more than just their bodies — they're kind, compassionate, and wonderfully complex.

That's something Barbie could never be.