Fairy tales linked to violent relationships
Fri Apr 22, 7:47 AM ET Science - AFP
LONDON (AFP) - Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says.
A study of both parents of primary school children and women who have been involved in domestic abuse claims than those who grew up reading fairy tales are likely to be more submissive as adults.
Susan Darker-Smith, a graduate student who wrote the academic paper, said she found many abuse victims identified with characters in famous children's literature and claimed the stories provide "templates" of dominated women.
A more senior academic at the University of Derby said the topic was sure to spark debate but merited further research.
"They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner's behaviour," Darker-Smith said. "Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships."
The research, conducted in Leicester in the east of England, is to be presented to the International Congress of Cognitive Therapy in Gothenburg, Sweden, next month.
Her study, entitled "The Tales We Tell Our Children: Overconditioning of Girls to Expect Partners to Change", will be discussed by many of the world's most influential therapists.
Darker-Smith said she believed younger generations exposed to television and other entertainment media may react differently and be less submissive than those weaned solely on literature.
Her work found the most popular bedtime stories for girls were "Cinderella" and "Rapunzel", while boys were more likely to hanker for "Paddington Bear" or "Thomas the Tank Engine".
Darker-Smith, a masters student in cognitive behavioural psychotherapy at the University of Derby, will also submit other abstracts to the conference, examining ideas about anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Michael Townend, senior lecturer in psychotherapy at the university said: "We know that storytelling is an important way that children form beliefs about themselves and relationships."
"Susan's work is an interesting study which is sure to spark debate, but further research is required in this area."