A new study has dealt another blow to parents who worry about their preteen daughters’ well-being. The British survey of 7,000 children found that both boys and girls become less happy as they move toward adolescence. In girls, though, the drop in happiness is much more dramatic, and the biggest drop is at age 11. Girls continue to get more unhappy until about 16.
Happiness can be hard to quantify, and relying on a single measure can yield misleading results. This study, which was administered by 50 children’s charities, administered surveys to nearly 7,000 children ages 11 to 16—half girls and half boys. The children were ranked according to eight different measures of happiness, including overall satisfaction, satisfaction with friends, family, community, and school, self-esteem, and emotional well-being.
By the age of 11, the study found, girls already rank lower on measures of well-being than boys, and both boys and girls see precipitous drops in well-being levels across all eight areas of happiness at age 11. For girls, though, the drop is more dramatic and yields lower overall levels of well-being.
Why Are Girls So Unhappy?
This isn’t the first study to show that adolescence is an unhappy time for girls. Dozens of studies, as well as plenty of anecdotal observations by parents, teachers, and coaches, suggest that the teen years are challenging for girls.sexism to which teen girls are exposed. In adolescence, appearance and sexuality become more important, and this can increase the pressure girls experience to conform to a societal norm.
Girls are also exposed to increasingly more pornography and sexist images. The researchers who conducted the study argue that the proliferation of technology has increased girls’ exposure to sexism. Whether from revenge porn websites or cyberbullying built upon sexist slurs, messages that crush girls’ self-esteem are everywhere.
The study’s authors argue that academic environments are increasingly competitive and tough, and that this may compound girls’ struggles. Instead, they advise that girls need more support and a renewed focus on building confidence and self-esteem.
- Bernard, M. L. (2014, May 5). Girls’ happiness plummets circa age 11, says new study and also a billion older studies. Retrieved from http://www.autostraddle.com/girls-happiness-plummets-circa-age-11-says-new-study-and-also-a-billion-older-studies-236328/
- Bloom, D. (2014, May 04). Children become less happy after age 11 amid rise of cyberbullying, online porn and sexting – and it affects girls worse than boys. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2619935/Children-happy-age-11-cyberbulling-online-porn-sexting-affects-girls-worse-boys.html
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