Girls face specific types of social pressure, and every girl reacts differently to those pressures. While some girls may be able to cope with social pressure better than others, the fact is that they all face these pressures at some point in their life. These social pressures can come from friends, school, family, church and even the media.
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Social pressures typically involve peer, academic, media and familial pressures. The effects of these pressures on teenagers can differ depending on their support systems and coping strategies. Girls have a tendency to internalise these social pressures; as such, they can wreak havoc on a teenage girl's psyche, especially as she tries to develop her own identity.
Emotionally, teenage girls have lower self-esteem than boys, and can harbour unrealistic expectations of themselves. Girls often feel pressure to look a certain way or to act in a certain manner; if they feel like they are not living up to those expectations, they can develop serious self-esteem issues. Low self-esteem can then lead to depression and anxiety in teenage girls. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, adolescent girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys.
While there is no single cause for a person to develop an eating disorder, social pressure is definitely a factor in girls who have developed eating disorders. In popular culture, girls are encouraged to be thin, and weight loss products are mostly advertised toward women and even young girls. This pressure to be thin can cause young girls to adopt harmful and unnatural eating habits. Other physical effects of social pressures can include self-harm and drug abuse. Girls are more likely to use drugs and consume alcohol if they see their friends doing it.
Teenage girls are feeling more pressure from the media to live up to certain sexual ideals. Even preteen girls are facing more pressure than ever to be "sexy." The media creates a false sense of what girls and women should look like and act like. According to the Mental Health Foundation's report, "A Generation Under Stress," two in five girls felt worse about themselves after viewing images of models and celebrities in magazines. Girls feel that they are being forced to act more adult, and to engage in sexual behaviours before they are ready to do so.
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- "The Guardian"; Teenage girls report pressure to live up to sexual ideals; Alexandra Topping; July 2008
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Eating Disorders -- Causes
- National Institute of Mental Health: Eating Disorders
- "Friendship, Body Image and Dieting in Teenage Girls: A Research Report"; Susan Paxton, Ph.D.; 1996
- National Institute of Mental Health: Adolescent Depression