puberty is terrible for girls' confidence, study confirms
Until the age of 12, young girls are equally as confident as their male counterparts. Then everything changes.
Photo by Linda Kallerus, courtesy of A24.
The latest uplifting study, from polling firm Ypulse and the authors of Confidence Code for Girls, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, comes to a depressing, yet not entirely surprising conclusion: puberty kills girls confidence. In their book, Shipman and Kay stress the importance of instilling confidence in young girls and encouraging risk-taking behavior. The study’s findings demonstrate why this is so, so necessary.
Over 1,300 eight to 18-year-olds and their parents or guardians were surveyed nationwide last February, and the results indicate there’s work to be done. For one, between ages eight and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30% and their confidence in the fact that other people like them falls from 71% to 38%. More than half of teen girls feel pressure to be perfect and three in four teen girls worry about failing.
So where is the lack of confidence among young girls coming from? An article published by The Atlantic, presenting the study results, has some suggestions: “The habit of what psychologists call rumination — essentially, dwelling extensively on negative feelings — is more prevalent in women than in men, and often starts at puberty. This can make girls more cautious, and less inclined toward risk taking. Additionally, at an early age, parents and teachers frequently encourage and reward girls’ people-pleasing, perfectionistic behavior, without understanding the consequences… Adding to this, many girls are also wise enough by the age of 12 to see that the world still treats men and women differently — that dings their confidence, too.”
This plunge in confidence is particularly striking because multiple measures suggest that middle and high school girls, generally speaking, are outperforming boys in class. Unfortunately, this success is often seen as confidence, which masks the greater problem.