Girls Feel Too Much Pressure to Grow Up Too Fast, Study Says

Girls Feel Anxiety about Pressure to Fast-Track Their Development

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Between the magazine articles telling girls to lose weight, glossies teller her that she’ll never measure up , young celebrities withering away along with their clothes, models getting thinner and thinner, and the massive pressures in school and among friends to look the best, a generation of girls are being affected. Poor body image, poor body esteem, mental health issues, and low self worth abound.

Negative messages are everywhere. Even our daughter’s clothes and favorite dolls and toys are getting a boost, a lift, a pout, and a “push” to grow up sooner and sexier than ever before. Some, you just have to wonder, are the retailers kidding?

So who could be surprised that girls are showing some wear and tear from today’s sexualized, body-bashing culture? A recent study out of the UK reveals that the pressure to grow up too soon is one the greatest influences on girls’ well being, according to the girls themselves! The pressure to wear clothes that make them look older, entertain sexual advances from boys, lose weight according to the directions in the media, and even consider plastic surgery to “improve looks” were identified as pressures that were particularly damaging.

One participant explained: “When I was eleven I read a teenage magazine for the first time and that is when it kind of clicked, ‘I should be like this.’”

Here’s the scoop:

Who was studied? Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. Qualitative (descriptive) information was collected through focus groups consisting of 54 girls, divided by age. Quantitative (the numbers and percents) data were collected through polls online, in which 350 girls participated.

By Whom: Girlguiding UK, the Mental Health Foundation, and leading researchers Opinion Leader.

What was studied? The report considers a new generation of potential triggers for mental health problems in girls – premature sexualization, commercialization and alcohol misuse – and also some of the more longstanding issues like bullying and family breakdown. It examines the impact of such factors on girls’ feelings and behavior at home and in their communities, and asks young women themselves what might be done to help.

What did they find?

§ Mental Health Issues: Many girls reported that they had direct experience with friends and people who they knew who were suffering from some kind of mental health problem.

o Two-fifths know someone who has self-harmed

o One third of the girls have a friend who has suffered from an eating disorder

o Half new girls who were suffering from depression

o Almost two in five had friends who had experienced panic attacks.

o Many girls felt strongly that self-harm was within the spectrum of normal teenage behavior – as long as it happened infrequently– and was not necessarily an indication of a mental health issue.

o A sixth of those surveyed often feel angry

o Half admit they find anger hard to manage.

o Around a quarter often worry (28%) and feel like no-one understands them (25%) while around half find both emotions hard to handle.

§ Gotta Have It! Increased pressure to have money for the latest electronics and clothes means pressure for the girls.

o One-in-five girls report feeling anger and sadness

o A quarter of the girls feel worried or bad about themselves.

§ Fodder for Bullies? Girls felt that the growing check-list of “ideals” for young girls was giving bullies additional excuses to single them out – leading to stress, unhappiness and anxiety.

As one girl admitted: “If I get bored then I start becoming really aggressive.”

§ Is my body OK? Media is a major culprit.

o Looking at pictures of models, pop-stars and actresses makes a fifth feel sad, two-fifths feel bad about themselves and 12 per cent feel angry.

o Media stories that portray young people in a bad light make half the girls who took part angry (50 per cent), a quarter worried (23 per cent) and almost two-fifths sad.

· Read the full study: A Generation Under Stress

Study after study is showing that girls are under stress…and duress in their normal, everyday lives. Yet, our culture continues to churn out manufactured, thinned-out celebrities, sexualized play-things, inappropriate clothes, and media to deliver the 1-2 punch.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we provide our girls with positive role models, positive body messages, and positive activities and powerful environments that show them they are so much more than a 2-dimensional object there to be critiqued, criticized, and put-down.

What are your thoughts on this recent study? Any ideas with regard to what to do next? Yes, we need these girls to have a pivotal moment when they know they’re worthwhile—but even more than that—we need to promote positive development in these girls from the start so that this problem is markedly reduced in the first place. Otherwise, we are simply averting our eyes…aren’t we? I mean, how bad does it have to get before we pay attention?

Here’s to Making Our Girls Feel and Become Powerful–

Tots Popping Pills to Lower High Cholesterol? New Guidelines for at-risk children

Friday Reflection: Cholesterol- Lowering Drugs for Children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman for Dr. Robyn’s Powerful Parenting Blog

As you know, I’m passionate about children’s positive body image— but that doesn’t mean I want us all to throw children’s health into the toilet. Let me know if you feel the same way.

Today, I’m feeling frightened. Have we hit a new low? The diet, physical activity, school lunch options and overall health maintenance plan for school-age children has been so compromised in recent years that the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending “statins,” drugs to lower high cholesterol levels, as part of the health plan for “at-risk” children as young as 8 years old. What are we saying to these children about their own ability to be in control and take care of their bodies without having to rely on medical and drug assistance? Part of positive body image comes from feeling in control and positive about your own body health.

“Obviously all of us want kids to really take care of their health,” said Dr. Marcie Schneider, a member of the nutrition committee who is an adolescent medicine specialist in Greenwich, Conn. “We want them exercising, we want them eating well. You try the least invasive things always first, but at some point if that’s not helping enough, you need to go to the next level.”

While some youngsters have genetic predispositions towards higher cholesterol, statins will also be geared towards children as young as 8 years old with LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) at 190 milligrams per deciliter or higher, of those with an LDL of 160 and a family history of heart disease or 2 other risk factors such as being diagnosed medically with diabetes, high blood pressure or clinical “obesity.”

“When you have a kid whose cholesterol looks like an overweight 65-year-old, what do you do?” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the childhood obesity program at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “The committee had to balance the risks of treating children with powerful drugs, about which there is limited long-term data, with the risks of not treating children with unprecedented cardiovascular disease risk factors.”

The Issue: Concern that children are at risk for heart disease and heart attacks due to high cholesterol.

The New Guidelines: Issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing that children as young as 8 should be put on cholesterol-lowering drugs if they meet the criteria for being “at-risk.”

The Problems: Several problems with these new recommendations have been cited.

Here are a few:

  1. There are no long term studies on how these drugs will affect the children in the long run—especially if they plan to take it for the rest of their life.
  2. The side effects are unknown for children. Adult side effects have been noted; such as cognitive problems and muscle pain.
  3. There is fear that the drug companies are now going to be advertising these drugs for children. “It will open the door for pharmaceutical companies to heavily advertise and promote their use in 8-year-olds, when we don’t know yet the long-term effect on using these drugs on prepubertal kids,” said Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician in Danville, Calif., and the founder of the popular Web site DrGreene.com.
  4. As reported in the New York Times, “We’re talking about potentially treating thousands and thousands of children simply to possibly prevent one heart attack,” says Dr. Sanghavi, from the University of Massachusetts. “That kind of risk benefit calculation is entirely absent from the A.A.P.’s policy.” Dr. Sanghavi, went on to say that statin drugs may affect a child’s endocrine system, which regulates growth and development, among other things. “I, for one, feel unsafe simply saying children are little adults in this case,” he said.
  5. There is no evidence that these drugs will prevent heart attacks later in life.
  6. It’s so easy to pop pills; A “push-button” solution may encourage children to continue eating a poor diet, refrain from getting enough exercise, and embracing an overall positive health maintenance plan. This can lead to many more dangerous health problems and a perceived “lower priority need” for good health education and lunch programs in school.
  7. The drugs are expensive and require consistent blood tests to rule out any complications.
  8. Proposing these kinds of drugs for young children may unleash widespread use of drugs for children.
  9. There is concern that there are financial ties between the doctors who prescribe and the drug companies who supply.
  10. People are concerned that children are not “little adults” and should not be treated as such.

***I’d love to hear the opinions of all you out there on the new guidelines and if you feel that it’s a good move, a cop-out, a poor reflection on the state of children’s health today, or the best solution for our times. What do you think? Please comment below.

Have a powerful weekend!

top image: Jupiter

ADHD Linked to Obesity and Overweight in Children, Study Says

ADHD and Weight in Children…and other facts about ADHD in kids

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Given the “war on obesity” and the increasing number of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the results of a recent study is a real double whammy. According the July issue of Pediatrics, children with ADHD have a 50% higher risk of being medically overweight if they are not taking medication for their condition. Interestingly, those who were taking their medication were much more likely to be medically underweight.

The Study:

  • Who was studied? 63,000 children and teens between the ages of 5 and 17 years old. The data came from the 2003-2004 U.S. National Survey of Children’s Health.
  • Where were they studied? Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • By Whom? Molly E. Waring and Kate L. Lapane, researchers from the department of community health.
  • Interesting Fact: 1 in 5 children with ADHD are said to be clinically overweight.
  • Why we need to be careful: On the one side, we need to make sure that one problem does not beget another, such that a problem with focus also connects to a problem with health, but on the other hand, we need to make sure that we don’t make our children “scale” obsessed and give them body image issues on top of everything else! We know from other studies that girls who weigh themselves often are more likely than other girls to engage in unhealthy dieting and go up and down in weight. The girls who are most scale-obsessed, according to a 2006 study out of the University of Minnesota, tend to skip meals, use diet pills, abuse laxatives, smoke, binge, and vomit to lose weight. Help your children stay healthy, but don’t allow them to get crazy about weight.

Arguments against these findings:

(1) Some researchers believe that because the diagnosis of obesity in children and the diagnosis for ADHD are widespread, you can’t say that the overlap is due to a cause-and-effect connection rather than just coincidence.

(2) Some researchers agree that there is a connection and this is nothing new.

(3) Some researchers believe that there is a connection but we don’t know about any cause-and-effect link. In other words, we can’t say that ADHD CAUSES obesity and overweight nor can we say that obesity and overweight CAUSES ADHD.

Facts about ADHD

  • It’s estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD. In the United States, that equals approximately 2 million children.
  • The top characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • Symptoms: Fidgeting, squirming, trouble listening, difficulty playing quietly, said to talk a lot and often, often interrupt or intrude impulsively, easily distracted, lack focus, difficulty finishing tasks.
  • Symptoms appear early in the child’s life—but since ALL young children tend to fidget and become impulsive to a degree, it’s important to see a physician for confirmation of diagnosis.
  • Disorders that can sometimes go along with ADHD: Learning disabilities, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder.

Some Possible Treatment Options for ADHD:

(1) Medication

(2) Behavioral Modification

(3) A combination of both Medication and Behavior Modification

(4) Psychotherapy

(5) Social Skills Training

(6) ADHD coach for child

(7) Counseling

(8 ) EEG Biofeedback

(9) ADHD Diet

(10) Alternative Medicine

Have a child or know a child with ADHD? What are your thoughts on the July Pediatrics study? Do you find any challenges with ADHD and the weight of your child? What has worked/has not worked for you?

Looking forward to hearing from you-

Cartoon above found here