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Playing With Barbie Limits Girls' Career Goals

Update Date: Mar 05, 2014 01:45 PM EST

Playing with Barbie dolls could limit career dreams in young girls, according to a new study,

While the marketing slogan suggests that Barbie can "Be Anything," the latest findings suggest the opposite for girls who play with this doll. A few minutes playing with Barbie seemed to limit girls' perceptions about future career options, according to researchers.

Researchers said the latest findings are "sobering" in light of the worldwide prevalence of disparity in employment and earnings between genders, and that various occupations are still being highly gender-segregated.

The study involved 37 girls from the US Pacific Northwest, aged between four to seven years old. The girls were randomly assigned to play for five minutes with either a Doctor Barbie or Fashion Barbie doll, or a Mrs. Potato Head doll. Afterwards, children looked at pictures of ten occupations and were asked how many they themselves or boys could do in the future.

The findings revealed that girls assigned to play with Barbie dolls said they saw themselves in fewer occupations than are possible for boys. However, girls assigned to play with Mrs. Potato Head said they had nearly as many career options available for themselves as for boys.

Researchers said the latest findings support the objectification theory, which can limit women's sense of what is possible. The findings also support studies demonstrating the possibility of being female and not sexy or objectified is becoming increasingly difficult for women.

"Perhaps Barbie can 'Be Anything' as the advertising for this doll suggests, but girls who play with her may not apply these possibilities to themselves," researcher Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University said in a news release.

"Something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes the difference in career aspirations," she concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Sex Roles

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