Facts on Teen Stress

Stressed-Out Girls:
Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure

Facts on Teen Stress 

Dr. Cohen-Sandler conducted a survey of the attitudes and experiences of 3,000 students (2300 girls and 700 boys) attending middle schools and high schools across the country. Her sample included teens from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as from public and independent schools, coed and all-girls’ schools, parochial and secular schools, and alternative schools. She also interviewed more than 100 teen girls.

These are some results from her study:

Girls experience stress differently than boys

• In general, girls report far more school-related stress than do boys. They believe that to be successful, they have to be extraordinary in every area of their lives: academic, social, extracurricular, and appearance.

• Compared to girls, boys report being less invested in school. They feel less connected, are less likely to feel successful, and have fewer worries about college.

• Although all teens report being burdened by too much homework and tests, girls are 55% more likely than boys to say they pressure themselves to get good grades and do well in school.

Girls are also more stressed-out as they go through their school days because of social stress: they constantly monitor their relationships with peers and teachers.

Heightened worries about appearance—body image, clothing choices, and make-up—further exacerbate the daily stress of teen girls.

Whereas boys express stress more directly, girls keep their stress hidden.

Girls suffer high levels of stress

The majority of girls report feeling “too much” or “way too much” pressure to get good grades.

More than 2/3 of girls in middle school say they “usually” or “always” pressure themselves to succeed. By high school, that number rises to _.

Almost 2/3 of girls in middle school and 3/4 of girls in high school believe the amount of free time they have is “too little” or “not nearly enough.”

Nearly 2/3 of girls in middle school and high school report that the amount of homework they get is “too much” or “way too much.”

Stress worsens over time

Girls entering high school experience a sharp increase in stress, they report, because they are told “everything counts now for college.”

More than 1/3 of girls in middle school say they “usually” or “always” worry about getting into the “right” college.

By high school, that number doubles: 2/3 of girls “usually” or “always” worry about getting into the “right” college.

ecause of concerns about college applications and decisions, the junior and senior years of high school are usually the most stressful

Parents and teachers must recognize and address stress

Less than half of the most pressured group of girls believes that their parents realize how stress-out they are.

A large number of highly stressed-out girls think their parents want them to feel even more pressured to excel.

When asked about the one thing they would change to make school better, the vast majority of girls say, “less stress” and “more sleep.”

Girls ask for “better relationships,” as well. They want more friends, closer friends, less cliques, or fewer “mean girls.”

Girls also would like their teachers to be more available, to teach them more effectively, and to be “nicer.” All teens ask that their teachers communicate with each other to avoid having multiple tests and assignments due on the same day.

In general, girls would like their parents to be more supportive and to put less pressure on them. Specifically, they say they need a break in the afternoon before answering questions about school. They would like to figure out for themselves when, where, and how to study. Girls also believe that if their parents trust them, they will give them “more slack” in handling assignments independently.





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