A nonprofit located in England that advocates for the health and wellbeing of teens recently conducted a survey on the attitudes of female teens and young women. Their results point to the fact that issues facing female teens are changing. For that reason, parents may not quite understand what their female teens are experiencing.
For instance, according to the survey, 58% of the female teens they surveyed (ages 13 to 21) believed mental health was a significant concern in their lives, 37% felt worried about cyber-bullying, and 36% were concerned about not being able to find employment. Meanwhile, the participants of this survey indicated that their parents were more concerned that they would get involved in substance use. These teens expressed feelings of being misunderstood by their parents, saying that they are more worried about drug and alcohol use over mental illness. For instance, 42% of those surveyed said their parents were concerned about drug use, 33% were concerned about alcohol use, and 29% were worried about smoking.
Other research indicates that mental illness, particularly depression and self-harming behavior are major concerns for female teens these days. The United Kingdom study also found that 75% of those surveyed reported that self-harm was a serious issue for those in their age group. This is up from 62% in 2010. At the same time, 72% said smoking was a big concern for them. However, this percentage went down from 82% five years ago.
In California, a recent study explored the rates of depression among teens. Using data from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, the study found that under 1/3 of California teens ages 12 to 17 reported talking to their medical providers about their emotions or mood. Females (37.5%) were more likely to report their emotional symptoms and were more likely screened for emotional distress than male teens (25.1%).
Although it is positive that female teens are more likely to be screened, it’s also clear that female adolescents are more likely to experience and internalize symptoms of depression. For instance, on a national level, a recent study found that female teens tend to have more relationship-related stress than boys, which puts them at greater risk for depression. The study monitored the mental health of nearly 400 white and black American teens by having them assessed for depression along with three follow-up assessments at seven-month intervals. The study found that female teens tended to have more depressive symptoms during the follow-up than boys. Boys’ depressive symptoms seemed to decrease during follow-up, while girls’ depressive symptoms did not.
The results of the studies described here indicate that there might be a need for greater communication between teens and their parents. Although adolescence is a quintessential time for the parent-teen relationship to go askew, there are steps that both teens and parents can take to stay healthy. Parents might try to leave the communication door open with their teen as best they can. They might seek professional support, such as family therapy, when needed as well as educate themselves on the issues facing teens in general. Teens might also try to be more communicative and seek support when they need it. Whether you are a parent or teen, if you struggling with relationship issues or have concerns regarding psychological health, contact a mental health provider for support.