National Eating Disorder Collaboration

Categories: Body ArtBody Image

“According to the National Eating Disorder Collaboration, body image is defined as a person’s perception of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings, positive, negative or both, which result from that perception” (Body Image). When discussing body image, let’s look at the Barbie Doll. According to Forbes, an estimated one billion Barbie dolls have sold since 1959, ninety four and a half million of those sold, were sold in 2008” (Sherman 2012). These sales are equivalent to three Barbie dolls sold per second (Sherman 2012).

In other words, the Barbie doll is popular toy, and influences millions of girls around the world. That being said, however, I have found that Barbie dolls do in fact reinforce thin-thinking. A study conducted in 2006 surveyed one hundred and sixty-two girls from Kindergarten to Second Grade. “The study surveyed the girls’ responses to pictures of Barbie, Emme, a barbie doll that was equal to a size sixteen, and to clothes and stores without the presence of dolls” (Barbie).

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One group of the girls was provided a picture book that contained pictures of Barbie, another group was given pictures of Emme, a barbie doll, and the rest of the girls received a picture book that contained pictures of stores and clothes (Barbie). “Then after viewing the pictures, the girls were given several pictures of different sized girls, and asked to tell which one they thought they resembled and which one they would want to look like” (Barbie). “The results of the study concluded that the Kindergarteners and first graders that saw the pictures of Barbie, were significantly more likely to have a negative body image, than those who saw the pictures of Emme the heavier sized Barbie, or the stores and clothes” (Barbie).

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Put simply, Barbie promotes thin-thinking because she teaches girls that being a little bit heavier gives them a bad appearance, and that in order to look perfect they must be thin.

In addition, parents and teachers can overcome the stereotypes, like the thin-thinking that Barbie represents. Parents and teachers can overcome these stereotypes in a variety of ways. One way that parents and teachers can overcome them is by teaching their children that they are accepted and loved no matter whether they are heavy or thin. They should be taught that they were created a certain way for a reason and that everyone is unique. Another way that parents and teachers can overcome the thin stereotypes is by reinforcing the importance of what is on the inside of a person is what is important not what is on the outside (Tartakovsky 2018). Children should be taught that being kind to others is more important than being thin. Finally, another way that parents and teachers can overcome stereotypes is by making sure that children play with dolls of different sizes. By doing this, parents will help their children see that even dolls can be heavier in size, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of, or that needs to be changed. For example, if a child wants to play with a Barbie doll, they should be playing with a thin and heavy Barbie doll. This ultimately shows little girls that either size is acceptable.

Finally, I found that there is a correlation between a mother’s body image and her daughter’s body image. Daughters look up to their mothers for guidance and advice. They often imitate what their mother’s say and do, resulting in them having a negative body image. An example of how a mother’s body image affects her daughter’s body image is seen in dieting. “According to Family Education, studies have found that women who began dieting at early ages were more likely to have daughters who would engage in binging or have problems with eating” (Abel 2000). A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health demonstrates the effect that a mother dieting has on her daughter’s body image. In a study conducted in 2008, one hundred and ninety seven five year old girls and their mothers were surveyed (Abramovitz 2008). “The girls were asked to define dieting, to describe the behaviors associated with dieting, and were asked about the correlation between dieting, weight control, and body shape” (Abramovitz 2008). “When answering the questions, the results found that thirty to sixty five percent of the girls knew about dieting, and that ninety percent of their mothers had dieted recently” (Abramovitz 2008). Put simply, if a mother talks about how her clothes make her look heavy, and that she needs to diet, then her daughter will feel that she needs to diet when she feels the same way. Overall, a child can have a positive or negative body image, but it is the people that they look up to that help influence how they perceive themselves.

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National Eating Disorder Collaboration. (2022, Jul 25). Retrieved from

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