When you hear a phrase like "peer pressure," you might think about drugs and alcohol, sex, gossip and social media bullying. Teen girls face social pressure on all these topics, but they also pressure each other to do things their parents would approve of, such as doing well in school. Both types of social pressure can cause problems for teen girls.
Peer Group Acceptance
Teenagers go through a developmental stage in which they do not yet feel confident enough in their own identities or values to go against their peer group. Acceptance by peers can be more important to a teenager than doing the right thing, the safe thing or even the thing the teenager actually wants to do. If peers are doing drugs or having sex, the teen is much more likely to do the same. However, many peer groups are not focused on risky behaviors like these. Instead, they focus on getting high grades, steady boyfriends, good SAT scores and doing enough extracurricular activities to build a strong college application. These seemingly benign social pressures can sometimes be just as destructive.
University of California, Berkeley professor Stephen Hinshaw and author Rachel Kranz, in their book "The Triple Bind," discuss the negative effects of social pressure on teenage girls. According to Hinshaw and Kranz, teen girls are under intense pressure from both peers and parents to excel in every area of life simultaneously. They are expected to be honor roll students and star athletes, to do some form of extracurricular charity work and to have steady relationships at a young age. They are expected to be highly successful by all measurable standards while staying in shape and conforming to the traditional model of girls who are sweet and nurturing.
Kranz and Hinshaw believe that the social pressure to be perfect in too many aspects of life is causing an epidemic of mental and emotional problems in teenage girls. Twenty percent of girls between the ages of 10 to 19 experience a major depressive episode. Five to 10 percent of teenage girls suffer from an eating disorder. As of 2005, 10 percent attempt suicide, and compared to past years, more of these attempts are serious. The percentage of teenage girls who self-injure by cutting themselves is not known, but Kranz and Hinshaw believe it has been increasing rapidly.
How to Help
Hinshaw advises parents to help their teenage daughters step back from the pressure to be seen as perfect. He encourages teen girls to concentrate on figuring out their own identities and what they want out of life instead of concentrating so much on building a strong resume for the future. By encouraging your daughter to think more about what she really wants for herself, you can help reduce some of the dangerous social pressure to achieve perfection.