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Description: In my last couple of blog posts (here and here) I have been looking at the important concerns being raised about teen mental health and about the mental health of teen girls in particular. A full and complete understanding of what is going on requires sorting out a huge number of variables linked to the sociohistorical contexts of teen development (i.e., the times they are living in) and that will take time that many teens today do not have. So, at the same time as we work on a big picture understanding of the current courses and challenges of teen development we need to figure out some things that we can do NOW in order to help teens and especially teen girls. I posted about one approach that looked directly at the possible connection of engagement with social media in deteriorating teen mental health. That study asked the question of whether reducing engagement with social media (by cutting use levels in half for a time) would be of any help. The results indicated that cutting social media use in half for 3 weeks lead to significant improvements in body image among both male and female teens and emerging adults. A positive result indeed but a rather narrowly focused result. More broadly applicable interventions or supports are needed, given the scope of the teen mental health crisis (especially for teen girls). Given the complexity of the issue I will not ask you to hypothesize at this point about what could be tried (though go ahead if you have some research data you can build from). Rather, as whatever we do should be research based and supported I suggest that you read the article linked below BOTH for some ideas about how to help AND for a beginning understanding of why the things suggested might work and HOW they might also broaden our understanding of the current sociohistorical state of teen development and mental health.

Source: How to help teen girls mental health struggles – 6 research-based strategies for parents’ teachers and friends. Elizabeth Englander and Meghan K. McCoy, The Conversation.

Date: February 23, 2023

Image by Mircea – All in collections from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did the article give you a few helpful suggestions along with a bit more clarity as to the factors that are contributing to the recent (the Covid years AND a few years prior to Covid) jump in rates of teen girls’ mental health issues? It IS a complex issue but once we decide to look beyond simple explanations (e.g., calling teens today “snowflakes” or calling their parents bulldozer” or “snowplow” parents) we can start to understand and address at least some of the contributing factors. Some of it has to do with what the developmental business of being a teen has always involved (which has always been somewhat challenging), but some of it has to do with what it is like for teens trying to do their developmental business in the sociohistorical context that is today. As we start to work out a more complete and current developmental picture we will also begin to better understand what we can do to help our teens AND what we need to work on changing in their (and our) sociohistorical contexts in order to make them more livable and into spaces in which teens can (developmentally) thrive.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things are researchers and others talking about when they refer to the current mental health crisis among teens in general and teen girls in particular?
  2. What are some possible variables or factors that could begin to account for why the current mental health crisis seems to be taking a great toll on teen girls rather than teen boys?
  3. The linked article discussed a number of tings parents, teachers and friends can do to help teen girls who are trying to cope with mental health issues ‘these days’. Beyond this sort of ‘helping individuals’ approach what sorts of ‘change the world’ (the current sociohistorical contexts of teen development) changes or interventions should we be investigating?

References (Read Further):

Theberath, M., Bauer, D., Chen, W., Salinas, M., Mohabbat, A. B., Yang, J., … & Wahner-Roedler, D. L. (2022). Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health of children and adolescents: A systematic review of survey studies. SAGE open medicine, 10, 20503121221086712. Link

Haidt, Jon (2023) The new CDC report shows that Covid added little to teen mental health trends. After Babel. Link

CDC (2023) Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary and Trends Report. Link

Englander, E. (2021). Bullying, cyberbullying, anxiety, and depression in a sample of youth during the coronavirus pandemic. Pediatric reports, 13(3), 546-551. Link

Appel, M., Marker, C., & Gnambs, T. (2020). Are social media ruining our lives? A review of meta-analytic evidence. Review of General Psychology, 24(1), 60-74. Link

Leiserowitz, A., Smith, N., & Marlon, J. R. (2011). American teens’ knowledge of climate change. Yale University. New Haven, CT: Yale project on climate change communication, 5. Link

Markstrom, C. A., Marshall, S. K., & Tryon, R. J. (2000). Resiliency, social support, and coping in rural low‐income Appalachian adolescents from two racial groups. Journal of adolescence, 23(6), 693-703. Link

Chua, T. H. H., & Chang, L. (2016). Follow me and like my beautiful selfies: Singapore teenage girls’ engagement in self-presentation and peer comparison on social media. Computers in human behavior, 55, 190-197. Link

Plaisime, M., Robertson-James, C., Mejia, L., Núñez, A., Wolf, J., & Reels, S. (2020). Social media and teens: A needs assessment exploring the potential role of social media in promoting health. Social Media+ Society, 6(1), 2056305119886025. Link

Thorisdottir, I. E., Sigurvinsdottir, R., Asgeirsdottir, B. B., Allegrante, J. P., & Sigfusdottir, I. D. (2019). Active and passive social media use and symptoms of anxiety and depressed mood among Icelandic adolescents. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 22(8), 535-542. Link

Burnette, C. B., Kwitowski, M. A., & Mazzeo, S. E. (2017). “I don’t need people to tell me I’m pretty on social media:” A qualitative study of social media and body image in early adolescent girls. Body Image, 23, 114-125. Link

Smirni, P., Lavanco, G., & Smirni, D. (2020). Anxiety in Older Adolescents at the Time of COVID-19. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(10), 3064. Link