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A crisis of confidence: Teenage girls and the risky years (Part 2)

In part two of this article, read how girls entering puberty often face a "crisis in confidence" which makes them vulnerable to risky behavior, and these bad choices can have devastating lifelong consequences. (See part one of this article here.)

The thirteen crises
What struggles do teen girls face today? Echevarria discusses "13 Crises," which include having sex, getting pregnant, drinking, smoking, developing eating disorders and contemplating suicide. Echevarria predicts that the vast majority of girls will confront at least one of these before she turns 18. "If parents think their girls won't be faced with one of these crises, they're dreaming," she says. "And because these problems are also things girls don't want to share with parents, a mentor can mean the difference between life and death."

Things girls are more likely to tell a mentor -- but not a parent:

1. "I had sex last night." -- 53.1% of all high school students have had sexual intercourse at some point; 14.5% have had sex with four or more partners.

2. "I had unprotected sex." -- Nearly half of currently sexually active high school students did not report using condoms during their last sexual intercourse.

3. "I'm pregnant." -- 25% of all first births in this country are to teen mothers aged 15-19 years old.

4. "I've been smoking for awhile -- Smoking among teenage girls is rising. If a girl begins to smoke, the habit usually begins between the ages of 10 and 16.

5. "I got drunk last night." -- The percentage of eighth graders reporting daily use of alcohol rose by nearly half between 1995 and 1996. Nearly a third of high school seniors reported having been drunk in the past month.

6. "I want to kill myself." -- 29% of adolescent girls reported having thoughts of suicide. From 1980 to 1992, the rate of suicide among young white females increased 233 per cent.

7. "I throw up after each meal." -- Eating disorders are a particularly pronounced risk for girls, and they're likely to be connected in complex ways to a girl's relationship to her parents.

8. "My mom doesn't care about me." -- Nearly half of girls surveyed did not name their mother as the person to whom they would turn for emotional support. 9. "I hate myself." -- Nearly one in every four girls surveyed exhibited depressive symptoms; one in ten showed "severe" depressive symptoms. Girls scored notably worse in this area than boys did.

10. "I want the pill." -- The leading reason adolescents gave for not getting needed medical care or birth control consultation was reluctance to tell parents about a problem or situation.

11. "He hit me." -- One study found "disturbingly high incidence of violence," with 18% of girls in grades 5 through 12 reporting some form of physical or sexual abuse.

12. "(An older male friend or relative) keeps coming on to me/sending me love notes.." Most abuse occurs at home, occurs more than once, and occurs as a result of the actions of a family member or friend of the family. Girls may have serious reactions of shame, guilt and self-hatred following these episodes.

13. "This guy made me do something I didn't want to do." Nearly one in ten older girls answered "yes" when asked whether "a boyfriend or a date has ever forced sex against your will."

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