Should Barbie come with instructions? : conventional and unconventional Barbie play

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Hicks, Robin M.
Merten, Don E.
Issue Date
Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Anthropology
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Adult attitudes toward the Barbie dolls are ambivalent, with many saying they encourage a variety of undesirable tendencies. This paper looks at the dramatic play that actually occurs with the dolls, much of it involving the normal behavior that one would expect in children who are becoming enculturated through imitation of the adult behavior they see around them. But also common is play that most adults would think of as unconventional or deviant. To what extent are parents, particularly mothers, aware of this? How does this play relate to enculturation? Does it serve other functions? And what implications does it have for the age at which children should be given Barbies and the need for adult supervision or instruction of the children? This thesis describes the types of play engaged in and considers possible answers to the questions raised above.