Research has shown that fantasy and play are considered important parts of girls’ socialization and development. Also, toys portraying gender and adult roles, like Barbie, provide girls with a tangible image of social values and social interactions.
Interestingly, a 2004 study in the journal Adolescence found that as girls approach late childhood and early adolescence they are less likely to engage in make-believe play with their Barbie dolls and instead increasingly expose them to “torture” or “anger” play — where the dolls are painted, shaved or pulled apart. The authors believe the latter, more hostile form of play is a healthy, normal outlet for expressing aggression and frustration that the children have learned would be inappropriate to do in public. The authors also noted that some girls likely attacked the dolls because they acknowledged they were “too perfect.”
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