This thesis examines the socializing messages in American Girl Dolls, a popular line of products aimed at a pre-teen audience. A review of academic literature reveals the broad range of issues present in American Girl merchandise, including the topics of girlhood, history, gender, diversity, and consumerism. Contemporary critiques of neoliberalism and Erik Erikson's work on identity development provide a basis for studying the influence American Girl products have on their clientele. Ethnographic research, including interviews with 17 college students, parents, and girls, along with participant-observation at American Girl Place in New York City, allowed for the discovery of messages and memories that stay with consumers of American Girl Dolls. The interviewees eagerly described how the historical component of these dolls, the positive image of girls which is depicted in accompanying literature, and the social element connected to the ownership of an American Girl Doll were significant reasons why they treasured this merchandise. American Girl's strong emphasis on consumerism also emerged as a theme in the interviews and during participant-observation at American Girl Place. Young girls are thrilled to shop at this store specifically because they realize that everything there is targeted to them. The girls understand that since they are consumers of American Girl products, they will almost certainly leave with a new toy in a bright red bag.


Craven, Christa


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2007 Marta E.C. Beyer