Girls today are facing unprecedented levels of stress and pressures which are damaging their wellbeing, shows a new report from Girlguiding and YoungMinds.
Released today, the report shows that girls as young as 7-10 are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of social, emotional, school and sexual pressures, including the need to look ‘right’, to do well in school, to fit in and to get a good job.
Social media exacerbates many of these worries and fears, making it hard to shut out pressures or gain perspective on realistic expectations.
Barriers to help
The qualitative survey, which heard the views of over 120 girls and young women aged 7-18, reveals a concerning tendency for girls to dismiss or ‘play down’ issues such as inequality, sexual harassment and bullying.
When girls do seek help it is typically from friends rather than professional sources. Many feel that the adults in their lives are out of touch with their concerns, some even citing instances where they were blamed by teachers for experiences of sexual harassment.
Strategies for resilience
The research shows that young women are doing a huge amount to help each other in their peer groups.
However where girls lack positive coping mechanisms their wellbeing is at risk. Girls in the focus groups spoke about social isolation, drinking, and aggression as negative behaviours through which they try to cope when things get tough.
Last year Girlguiding's 2015 Girls' Attitudes survey revealed that 62% of girls aged 11-21 know someone their age who has experienced a mental health problem, and 47% of young women aged 17-21 have personally needed help with their mental health.
The report puts forward a series of recommendations to improve support for girls, including demands that schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and that regulators stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised images and content in mainstream media.
In her foreword to the report, YoungMinds CEO Sarah Brennan says:
As this report shows, the modern day stresses that girls and young women are coping with in day-to day life are having a range of negative effects.
The findings support YoungMinds’ own research with over 5,000 young people, so it is very welcome that the report also outlines recommendations that provide clear steps for change and should be supported by us all.
This report starkly illustrates the challenges that girls face, but also shows that they can do a huge amount to support each other. Building resilience to cope with pressures is essential.”