LONDON, Dec. 20, 2005 — -- As kids grow older, it's a rite of passage for them to take the toys they once treasured and cast them aside, or, apparently, to decapitate or even microwave them.
According to new research, young girls in England often use particularly gruesome methods as they pass through this phase of childhood.
Torture, decapitation and even microwaving of Barbie dolls were among the "varied and creative" methods of mutilation children used, researchers at the University of Bath said in a report released Monday.
The study's authors cautioned against drawing hasty conclusions about the mental health of British children, however. "The children are not a pile of psychotics in the making," said Dr. Agnes Nairn. "They see torture as a legitimate play activity."
"Whilst for an adult, the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing," Nairn said. "From the child's point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling."
The research reported "rejection, hatred and violence" of Barbie dolls among girls as they grew older and believed they'd outgrown their once-cherished playthings.
The kids think "Barbie isn't cool, I'm grown-up, I'm 7 years old now," Nairn said.
Boys, however, tended to express nostalgia and affection toward Action Man -- the British equivalent of GI Joe.
The researchers based their findings on interviews with 100 children, whom they questioned about a range of products. Barbie consistently provoked the strongest reaction, and it was more than emotional antipathy -- actual physical violence and torture toward the doll were reported "quite gleefully," the researchers found.
Mattel UK staunchly defended its stylish blond doll. "The study was only with a small survey group, and Barbie remains a No.1 fashion doll brand," the company said in a statement.
"Three Barbies are sold in the world every second, and it is definitely a top seller this Christmas."