Gender Equality in Teenagers Not Always Good for Girls

“In the past, people have had this angelic picture, but girls are just as bad as boys are. We do what we want to do, when we want to do it.”

“Before, it was a novelty. It went from, ‘Well, maybe . . .’ to ‘Oh, I know I’m going to drink this weekend.’ ”

“I live for now. It’s great to be a girl.”

“Life is better with a buzz.”

These are quotes from several teenage girls who anonymously talked to The Washington Post about what motivates them to drink, smoke and divulge in behaviors their parents would not want them to. The article describes how educators and parents have pushed gender equality for girls and boys with mixed results.

The good being that girls dominated the national math and science competition in 2007. Girls also enjoy greater opportunities in choosing colleges and careers. The bad being that they also have greater opportunities to party.

National surveys show that teenage girls now equal or outpace teenage boys in alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use. In 2006, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy found that the number of girls who smoke or abuse prescription drugs had surpassed that of boys. More girls are entering the juvenile justice system. And a 2006 study that examined accident rates among young drivers noted that although boys get into more car accidents, girls are slowly beginning to close the gap. More troubling is the fact that the increase in drug usage among girls comes at a time when overall numbers for teenage drug abuse are on the decline.

Experts say there is no single explanation for why more teenage girls are deciding to experiment with drugs or why some are getting into fights. The article talks about how society’s expectations about girlhood have changed dramatically, noting the change from teenage icon Annette Funicello to the troubled Britney Spears.

The teenagers noted that pressure is an issue for them. A 16-year-old talked about how both academic and peer pressure prompted her to take up drinking as an outlet for her stress. One 18-year-old remembered being so overwhelmed by the pressure to be a perfect student that she couldn’t get out of bed at one point.

It was noted that these behaviors are especially dangerous for girls because girls and women are more likely to become addicted to alcohol, nicotine and drugs and that they develop health problems related to their substance abuse at lower levels of use and in shorter periods of time.

The real challenge is getting girls, and even parents and other educators, to understand the impact these behaviors will have on these girls. Serious consequences could come, if not now, then somewhere down the line.

Read the full article from The Washington Post: “Catching Up to the Boys, in the Good and the Bad”

Technorati Tags: , , The Washington Post,