A new study has dealt another blow to parents who worry about their preteen daug..." /> A new study has dealt another blow to parents who worry about their preteen daug..." />

Study Shows Girls’ Happiness Drops During Preteens

sad girl on a swingA 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.

The Study

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.

This study, like many previous ones, links girls’ unhappiness to the 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.


  1. 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/
  2. 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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  • Micki

    May 6th, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    This makes me sad to think that my granddaughters are all at the age where they should be celebrating life and the wonderful things that lie ahead for them and that life has in store and instead they are prone to being more unhappy with that life the older that they get. I am sorrowful that this could be a part of their near future and that it seems that no matter what we do this could be what they are destined to encounter and feel. I remember that teen angst but I also remember some wonderful times that I experienced with friends and family so it leaves me to wonder why this unhappiness is so prevalent today and what things that I and their paremts can do to change the course a little bit for them.

  • Mia s

    May 7th, 2014 at 3:39 AM

    We need our girls to be strong and to feel good about themselves and we need more programs that will encourage this and help us to all give them the foundation that they need to grow into confident women.

    I know that they face a lot of odds, believe me I remember but we have to teach them that it can be okay to challenge things and to see things in a new way! That they are strong enough to put up a fight against those things that they see as wrong, and to work hard for the things that they believe in.

  • Lillian

    May 7th, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    This does not happen with just girls, but there are plenty of teenage boys who go through the same kinds of emotional ups and downs that young girls do. It is all about the age, all about the hormones, and all about trying to fit into that little box even when you feel at odds with the rest of the world. I think that all of us can relate and remember feeling this way at times when we were younger, and even now as adults there are still many of us who experience those same kinds of things. I don’t think that it makes you crazy or weird, but really, feeling this way from time to time, especially at this age, really makes you quite normal.

  • Joellen

    May 8th, 2014 at 3:32 AM

    My daughter is 12 and you are saying that I have to deal with all this doom and gloom for another 4 years or so until she snaps out of it? AARRGGHH we might never make it!

  • Jane

    May 10th, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    and you know what happens when they become unhappy?
    some of them try as hard as they can to make the people around them unhappy too
    and that goes especially for other girls that they know and go to school with
    they look at those who are happy and i think that it becomes their mission in life to bully them and make them as unhappy as they are
    i think that if we look at this carefully we will see that this is probably where a whole lot of bullying stems from
    from girls who are so upset with their own lives that they would like to add to the unhappiness of others just to try to feel better about themselves
    not cool

  • gwen c

    May 14th, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    If this is the case then why are gorls still being portrayed as being so carefree and happy go lucky? This partrayal is going against every shred of evidence that we have that indicates that girls are having a really tough time today. Can you imagine how this makes these girls feel to see these images of smiles and innocence when they know that this is not how they are feeling or that any of their friends are feeling either? Why not show a little reality? Or better yet why not show them that this is possible even though this may not be exactly what they are feeling at this moment? I think that the more that we can do to validate their true feelings instead of simply trying to gloss over them will do all of us a tremendous amount of good.

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