There's a lot to think about in a recent study on Disney Princess Media. The study was covered by the Huffington Post here, and by another source in Oregon. (You'll find other press coverage if you search for it). The study illustrates some of the concepts in Chapter 8 and 9.
Let's point out the causal claims made by the journalists first. The Huffington Post journalist's headline reads:
Disney Princesses May Impact Gender Stereotypes For Girls (But Not Boys), Study Finds
And the Oregon paper's headline reads:
Disney 'princess culture' damaging to young girls, study says
Did you notice the causal verbs, "impact" and "damaging"? That's probably inappropriate, because this was a correlational study. In the first paragraph, the HuffPo journalist continues the dramatic causal language:
Brigham Young University family life professor Sarah M. Coyne conducted a study with 198 preschoolers, both male and female, to rank their interaction with Disney Princess culture — including toys and movies — and how that affected their behavior one year later with reports from parents and teachers.
a) Look back at that quote and find the verb that makes the causal claim.
Now let's talk about the moderator in the headline, Disney Princesses May Impact Gender Stereotypes For Girls (But Not Boys).
b) This headline describes a moderator. Review what you learned about moderators in Chapter 8. What is the core relationship in this example (what are the two core variables)? And what is the moderator variable? How would you sketch this headline in a table or figure?
Now, here are some more points made about the study, quoted from the Oregon news source:
Linder and her co-authors found that 96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had taken in some form of princess culture. Roughly 61 percent of girls reported playing with a princess doll in the last week, but only 4 percent of boys said they had played with the dolls.
When the subjects were examined a year after the initial analysis, both girls and boys who played with the dolls showed an increased likelihood to adhere to female gender stereotypes, a fact that could prove especially problematic for girls, said Sara Coyne, a co-author of the study and professor of family life at Brigham Young University.
Here's how the HuffPo journalist described this part of the results:
For both boys and girls, greater interactions with princesses predicted more gender-normative behavior — like wanting to play with traditional female stereotypical toys and activities (e.g., dolls, tea sets, playing house), and behaviors (e.g., avoiding getting dirty, avoiding taking risks)
c) What are the variables in this study, as described above? Are they measured or manipulated? And given your answer, does that make the study correlational or experimental? Did you notice that the design is longitudinal? (What signaled you to that?) Which design in Chapter 9 does this design seem closest to?
d) Now, do these descriptions of the results actually show a relationship between Disney Princess media and gender-normative behavior that is different for boys and girls, as the one headline suggested?
OK. If the relationship between Disney culture and stereotypical behavior was actually the same for boys and girls, where did the moderator in the headline come from? Turns out that when the researcher was interviewed about the results, she indicated that the gender stereotypes could, in the future, lead to different outcomes for boys and girls. Therefore, the moderator in the headline came more from the researcher's discussion than from the study itself. The researcher said, for example:
"We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can't do some things," she told the university's news site. "They're not as confident that they can do well in math and science. They don't like getting dirty, so they're less likely to try and experiment with things."
And for boys:
The effects of princess culture were less troubling for boys, the authors said, as more stereotypically feminine behavior could serve as a counterbalance to the hyper-masculine superhero culture many young boys take in on a daily basis.
If your college or university subscribes to the journal, Child Development,you can see the full report of the study and learn more about the full pattern of results!