A British survey of 7,000 children found that both boys and girls become less happy as they move toward adolescence. In girls, though, the drop in happiness is much more dramatic, and the biggest drop is at age 11. Girls continue to get more unhappy until about 16.
Happiness can be hard to quantify, and relying on a single measure can yield misleading results. The study, which was administered by 50 children's charities, administered surveys to nearly 7,000 children ages 11 to 16--half girls and half boys. The children were ranked according to eight different measures of happiness, including overall satisfaction, satisfaction with friends, family, community, and school, self-esteem, and emotional well-being.
By the age of 11, the study found, girls already rank lower on measures of well-being than boys, and both boys and girls see precipitous drops in well-being levels across all eight areas of happiness at age 11. For girls, though, the drop is more dramatic and yields lower overall levels of well-being.
This study, like many previous ones, links girls' unhappiness to the sexism to which teen girls are exposed. In adolescence, appearance and sexuality become more important, and this can increase the pressure girls experience to conform to a societal norm.
Girls are also exposed to increasingly more pornography and sexist images. The researchers who conducted the study argue that the proliferation of technology has increased girls' exposure to sexism. Messages that crush girls' self-esteem are everywhere.
The study's authors argue that academic environments are increasingly competitive and tough, and that this may compound girls' struggles. Instead, they advise that girls need more support and a renewed focus on building confidence and self-esteem.
The study was conducted by UK think tank, New Philanthropy Capital.