Like mother, like daughter: Teen girls are dealing with multiple pressures

Aug 27, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. ET
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Every teen you talk to these days seems to be stressed about something — or at least mentions stress when talking about all the things they have going on. Stress has become an expected part of our lives and our teen girls are feeling it too. A recent study dug into the lives of teen girls and sheds new light on what they're stressed about.

Teen girl stressed at school |

Photo credit: Jetta Productions/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Got stress? If you're a teen girl, the answer is a resounding yes. But what are the factors in a teen girl's life that cause the most stress? We checked in with a random group of teen girls and got a glimpse into what their stressors are.

What's stressing them out?

I surveyed a random sample of teen girls (anonymously) about what pressures they are under and where the stress comes from. Within this sample group, the overwhelming majority of stress comes from academic pressures. A full 25 percent of teens surveyed agreed that academic pressures from parents and/or society caused them stress, plus a whopping 58 percent who strongly agreed. This category far outweighed pressure to use illegal substances and sexual pressure, which may be surprising to many parents.

What our girls are saying

Want to know what's going on in your teen's head? I left an open-ended question in my anonymous survey for them to share — if they chose to. What causes teen girls the most stress on a daily basis?

"School, homework, grades, getting into college."

"Pressure from parents to be the perfect child."

"Having too much going on."

"Family drama."

"Rumors and people's opinions."

"I get stressed when I get a bad grade on something because I want to be successful, and I don't want to fail. It's not so much academic pressure from parents or society, but more academic pressure from myself, because I don't want to let myself down by failing."


"School. Oh my god. The school course is just ugh. Can't stand it. Then you have your freaking teachers that don't educate you and expect you to be born Einstein. The effect of that is your parents grounding you for the bad grades. Giving you more lectures, less freedom and expect you to just be OK with it. And that is what stresses the hell out of me."

"Sexual/relationship pressures from peers and self."

"School, friends and life."

Bravery and confidence targeted

Turns out, there is a lot of interest and concern about the stress teen girls are under. The Dare to Dream, Dare to Act: What Girls Say About Bravery study is a partnership between Keds and the Girls Leadership Institute. These two groups wanted to find out more about today's teen girls, how they feel about the stress in their lives and what bravery and confidence mean to them. The research study involved a total of 1,095 girls and 455 boys between the ages of 13 and 18, and was administered from February through April 2014. From academic pressures to the effects of peer criticism on their self-confidence, the daily stress of being a teen can weigh heavily on our daughters — and erode their self-esteem. Where to apply for college? Will I make the honor roll this semester? Why wasn't I invited to the birthday party? As I saw in my anonymous survey, there are multiple stressors in their lives. Teen girls recognize stress in their lives, but those surveyed admit to needing more resilience, confidence and bravery to overcome them and succeed. The top three pressures teen girls in the study indicated they need more bravery to overcome are:

  • Public speaking: 24 percent
  • Dealing with failure: 22 percent
  • Peer pressure: 16 percent

Where does the stress come from?

So we know that teen girls need help to develop the confidence and bravery to face their stressors, but where does their stress come from? A full 71 percent of teen girls in the study say that they feel some sort of pressure, and 25 percent quantify the pressure as "a lot." Here are the major sources of stress identified in the study.

School stress: Sixty-six percent of teen girls feel pressure from school on a daily basis.

Teacher tension: For 34 percent of teen girls in the study, their number one source of pressure comes from teachers, making concerns over academic performance the top stressor overall.

Go-getters: Girls show lots of initiative when it comes to their schoolwork, with 57 percent of those in the study reporting that they are an "A" student. A whopping 79 percent are aiming for a higher education and cite this as their most important goal.

Peer pressure: One-third of the total pressure comes from peers, meaning that classmates and friends represent a major source of stress as well as companionship. Many parents might assume that the majority of stress in their teen daughter's life comes from peer pressure — and might be surprised to learn how high these girls ranked their academic stress. Whether brought on by teachers or inflicted on themselves, academic pressure has a real effect on these girls.

What can parents do?

As the parent of a teen girl, always keep the lines of communication open without drilling her with questions. Chatting in the car is a great way to take the tension away, and follow her lead. Talk openly and honestly about school and expectations, both yours and hers. Try to resist comparisons with her friends or classmates. If she shares with you something that's happening in her world — a pregnant friend, someone who was drunk at school, a friend who is depressed — don't judge. Listen, then brainstorm with her about how she can help. She doesn't need your judgment; she needs you to have her back.

Help your teen daughter see her full potential and approach her future with bravery and self-confidence. She's counting on you.

More on teen behavior

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