Young girls who play with Barbie dolls are more likely to be unhappy with their bodies than those who play with fuller-figured toys, a new study has found.
Researchers in the US had 112 girls aged six to eight play with thin Barbie dolls and not-so-thin 'Tracy' dolls. A second group played with a range of other, non-branded figures.
Some of the dolls were dressed modestly, others in swimsuits.
"Girls who played with full-figured dolls showed less body dissatisfaction after doll exposure compared to girls who played with thin dolls," the researchers found.
Only three minutes with a thin doll was needed for girls to show a preference for being skinny. Swimsuits amplified the result.
"The findings of this study emphasise the need for parents, teachers, paediatricians, and psychologists to engage young girls in discussions about healthy body image and healthy role models," the research, published in Elsevier-published journal Body Image, concluded.
The researchers noted a similar study in the Netherlands conducted about a year ago, which found no decrease in body satisfaction for girls who played with thinner dolls - but an increase in snack food consumption for those exposed to larger dolls.