Teenage Anxiety and Emotional Disorders in Female Youth

Social Development

Teenage Anxiety and Emotional Disorders in Female Youth

A 2010 study from UK’s Cardiff University found that the prevalence of emotional disorders in female youth has doubled in the last twenty years.  Interestingly, in comparison to their lower and middle class counterparts, affluent teen girls – those whose families earn three times the American national average of $50, 000 – were found to be three times more likely to report clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety.

Create time each day to nurture your relationship with your child.

Contrary to traditional thinking, privilege does not connote psychological well-being, as wealthy youth are confronted with a number of unique risk factors that make them especially vulnerable and prone to negative developmental pathways. Symptoms such as excessive worrying, difficulties sleeping, agitation, feeling of withdrawal, sadness, lack of interest, and restlessness have become commonplace for this female teenage group.

What are some of the unique risk factors associated with this demographic?

Pressure to achieve.

Results from a study conducted by Luthar and Becker (2002), found that academic pressure on affluent youth was often strongly positively correlated with emotional disorders in affluent girls. The findings revealed that pressure from parents to succeed and excel in academics for long-term prospects, such as securing a spot in an elite top college, often caused significant distress in youth. Moreover, the findings indicated that “children with high perfectionist strivings – those who saw academic failures as personal failures – had relatively high depression [and anxiety], as did those children that indicated that their parents overemphasized their accomplishments, valuing them disproportionately more then their personal character.” Stress management activities can be very helpful for this cohort. If you are worried you see signs of depression in teens please talk to your doctor. A depression symptoms test can help identify mood disorders.

Relationships with parents: Isolation and criticism.

Another tested antecedent for emotional disorders in affluent youth is isolation from parents. In a study of 374 seventh graders, Bogard (2005), found that parental closeness was the best predictor of adjustment for both males and females Many affluent families did not have concrete family time, often as consequent of the busy nature of the children’s and the parents’ schedules.

What can parents do to encourage healthy psycho-social development?

  1. Highlight your child’s character NOT your child’s accomplishments.
  2. Create time each day to nurture your relationship with your child. Supervision and involvement is key.
  3. Develop a relationship with your child’s school psychologist and demonstrate your willingness to engage in conversations about mental health. Research indicates that fear of parental backlash, coupled with the culture in affluent environments to ignore and dismiss these kinds of problems often inhibits school psychologists’ mechanism to help, leading them to not pursue at-risk students or fail to report the issues to teachers, community clinical psychologists, parents and the general powers that be.

For more on teenage anxiety click here.

For more on reducing anxiety and stress at home click here.

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Alexis Hershfield

About Alexis Hershfield

Alexis received her Master’s of Education in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University. Alexis is currently is involved in a study at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience that is exploring how cognitive and neural mechanisms affect emotion regulation in youth with early onset mood disorders. Alexis’s research interests include social and emotional development and investigating the ways that digital media, physical activity and the nature of relationships affect emotional outcomes. Alexis also posts avidly on her blog (link below).

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