And They All Lived Happily Ever After...?
Date posted: 21 April 2005
Girls who hear fairytale classics such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast when they are children are more likely to stay in destructive relationships as adults, new research has revealed.
"Love won't always find a way," says psychotherapist Susan Darker-Smith. Victims of domestic violence repeatedly tell her that they believe 'if their love is strong enough they can change their partner's behaviour' and many identify with the characters in the stories.
Susan's research shows that girls who grow up in homes where they are read bedtime stories identify with the book characters as role models. These characters provide them with a template for future submissive behaviour.
Susan, who is studying for her Masters in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy course at the University of Derby, interviewed domestic violence victims and parents of primary school children in Leicester for her research.
Parents' most popular bedtime story choices for girls are Cinderella and Rapunzel, while the boys are more likely to listen to Paddington Bear and Thomas the Tank Engine.
Susan said: "Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships."
She feels the advent of television is exposing children to different stimuli. Coupled with having less literature read to them, Susan says children could grow up to be less submissive than the current generation.
Three abstracts of Susan's work are to be read at the International Congress of Cognitive Therapy in Gothenburg, Sweden, next month.
The study, 'The Tales We Tell Our Children - or over conditioning of girls to expect partners to change', will be read out to the world's most influential therapists including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy founder Aaron Beck.
Margaret Smith, who runs the Prevention of Domestic Abuse Centre, at the University of Derby, said: "We learn about ourselves and how we relate to others through stories in childhood.
"If we hold these beliefs deeply enough, and have submissive personalities as adults, it can be difficult to break away from destructive relationships."
Susan's other two abstracts are set to spark further interest in the fields of anorexia and post traumatic stress respectively.
'The Dual Mind-Set Of Anorexia Nervosa - conceptualism through to cure' looks at how anorexic victims often enjoy creative pursuits and struggle with mathematics - yet are able to become experts in weight and calorie calculation very rapidly.
Susan suggests an imbalance between the left side of the brain (critical) and the right side (creative) intensifies anorexia and could be treated by compassionate mind training currently being used to help schizophrenics.
'The Disappearing Self - or post traumatic stress disorder and identity in domestic violence survivors' suggests a new model for emotional trauma which looks at emotional age resetting in trauma survivors, relative to how long ago the abuse occurred.
Susan, who hopes to move on to study a clinical doctorate at the University of Derby, received EARP funding, a grant from the University of Derby, and financial assistance from the Leicester-based Sir Thomas White charity.
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