Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls

Impressing each other with sex, booze and Facebook


 

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Dr. Leonard Sax is a family physician and founder of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, who lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and daughter. The author of two previous books concerning the effects of gender differences on learning, Sax argues in his new book, Girls on the Edge, that today’s teens and tweens look confident on the outside but have a dangerously fragile sense of self.

Q: When we spoke two years ago, it was about how poorly boys are doing relative to girls in terms of both motivation and academic achievement. You said boys tend to be lazy while girls tend to be hard-working, driven. So aren’t girls, overall, actually in pretty good shape?
A: On paper, yes. In Canada, about 61 per cent of university undergraduates are women. If you look just at test scores and grades, you get the notion that girls are doing great and boys are struggling. But if you look at the literature, you see that more than one in five girls is cutting herself and/or burning herself with matches. More than one in four high-school girls is binge drinking. Today, one in eight females in the U.S. takes anti-depressants. There’s been an enormous escalation in anxiety and depression among girls and young women.

Q: How do you know girls are actually becoming more anxious, as opposed to simply more likely to seek help?
A: The Hamilton anxiety rating scale is the most frequently used inventory of anxiety, and it was published back in 1959, so for about 50 years psychologists like myself—I’m both a Ph.D. psychologist and a medical doctor—have been asking teenagers the same questions. Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University, compared how kids from roughly the same demographic have answered those questions over time, and she found that 40 years ago, it was rare for teenage girls to answer yes to questions like “Are you ever so anxious you can’t concentrate or focus?” and “Do you ever find yourself waking up in the middle of the night?” Today, it’s very common for girls to say yes. In fact, she found that the average teenage girl today is more anxious than the average girl admitted to a psychiatric unit for in-patient treatment 50 years ago. In 1966, a popular show in the U.S. was Gidget, about a giggly teenage girl. Today it just wouldn’t resonate. Now girls watch Gossip Girl, which is about anxious teens trying to present a sexual persona, who have all kinds of obsessions and neuroses. A whole lot of girls find solace in the notion that anxiety is now the norm.

Q: Boys aren’t anxious?
A: No, not like girls. When you actually sit down and talk to a girl, as I have done in many venues across Canada and the U.S., she will tell you she’s waking up at two in the morning upset about the pizza she ate for supper, and thinks she’s fat even though she’s not, and is frantic about whether she’s going to get into the university she wants to go to. Meanwhile her brother the goofball is enjoying life: eats a whole pizza for supper and doesn’t bat an eye, sleeps in late, and is perfectly content with his online games and pornography, hanging out with two other guys who are just like him. He’s happy! But his sister, who looks so good on paper, is not.

Q: You believe girls’ anxiety is connected to new issues, one of which is “self-objectification.” What do you mean by that?
A: Forty years ago, if you went into a department store and looked at clothes for seven-year-olds, they’d be quite different than the clothes on sale for 17-year-olds. Today there’s no longer any distinction; the same short skirts are sold to girls in Grade 2 and girls in Grade 12. T-shirts that say, “Yes, but not with you” are now sold to eight-year-olds.
Girls understand what these T-shirts are about: pretending to be sexually aware. We have girls who are now putting on a pretense of adult sexuality that they couldn’t possibly feel, and the danger of putting on a show is that you lose touch with your own sexuality. You’re wearing a mask, and when you take off the mask, there’s not a face there. Another thing that’s happening is the acceleration of the onset of puberty. Girls are losing what psychologists used to call middle childhood: eight to 12 years of age, which is the age of Pippi Longstocking and Harriet the Spy, the time for girls to have adventures and develop a sense of who they are as people without worrying about whether they’re hot.

Q: Consequently, are more kids sexually active than 20 years ago?
A Not really, seems to be the answer, though only a handful of studies have addressed that in any quantitative way. But kids may be sexually intimate—the term as I use it includes both oral sex and intercourse—a little earlier and certainly they are much more likely to be having oral sex than they were 20 years ago. There are some troubling new issues. You find a lot of 12- and 13-year-old girls who are providing sexual favours to 16- and 17-year-old boys. In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure. Today, so many teenage girls I’ve spoken to across Canada and the U.S. regard sex as a commodity that girls provide to boys. Increasingly, unfortunately, that is the case. For many, many girls, the most common form of sexual intimacy is oral sex, with the girl servicing a boy. And neither the girls or the boys see anything wrong with this.

Q: If girls view sex as a commodity, are they frequently the ones pushing it?
A: Yes, they are. A boy in California sent me a letter saying it’s girls who are cornering the boys, and giving them blow jobs. If it were just one boy, of course, I wouldn’t pay any attention, but you hear this from many, many young people across North America. So why does a girl corner a boy? Because if he’s popular and doesn’t have a girlfriend, it raises your status in the eyes of the other girls. I find it troubling that so many girls are using their sexuality in an instrumental way, in order to accomplish some other end such as raising their social status, but not as an expression of their own [feelings and desires].


Q: Turning to what you call the “cyberbubble,” you say that girls get addicted to social networking. That sounds relatively harmless compared to violent gaming. What’s wrong with it?

A: Girls spend a lot of time photoshopping their pictures, making themselves look a little bit thinner than they are and getting rid of the pimples, because they know boys are interested in the photos on these sites. So you’ve got 14-year-old girls essentially presenting themselves as a brand, trying to create a public persona, polishing an image of themselves that’s all surface: how you look and what you did yesterday, not who you are and what you want to be. And that leads to a sense of disconnection from themselves, because in most cases, these girls don’t even realize that their persona is not who they are. They’re just focused on striving to please their market and presenting the brand they think will sell. It’s one thing for Angelina Jolie to be doing this—she’s an adult—but it’s really toxic for a 14-year-old. It gets in the way of the real job of adolescence, which is figuring out who you are, what you want, what is your heart’s desire.

Q: You say that girls who don’t have a sense of self are prone to obsessions with, for instance, fitness. But isn’t this also true for boys?
A: I think there is something qualitatively different. For girls, I use this term “anorexia of the soul,” which I first read in a New York Times article. What I understand it to mean is that this girl is wasting away on the inside. She’s obsessed with surface—being the best student, or the fastest runner—but inside, her sense of self is undernourished, it’s starving. She doesn’t realize it because people keep praising her for being the top student or the fastest runner, and her sense of self gets tied up in that surface. I just don’t see that with boys. You will certainly find a lot of boys who are very comfortable, when you ask them to tell you about themselves, saying, “Well, I’m a really good gamer.” That’s also a pretty impoverished sense of self, but it doesn’t seem to bother the boys. And unfortunately, perhaps, they’re more robust and less prone to existential collapse than girls. That boy who’s a champion gamer is not going to fall apart if some other guy gets to level two in a game before he does. That’s okay, he still has status among other boys. Whereas the girl whose identity consists of being the “smart girl” or “Justin’s girlfriend” tends to crumble if she doesn’t get into the university of her choice or if Justin dumps her.

Q: You say anorexia, not of the soul but the body, is another obsession that’s become akin to a spiritual quest for some girls. Why don’t you view it as a cry for help?
A: Only a minority of girls have diagnosable eating disorders, but so many girls in North America are obsessed with what they eat and how slender they are, or are not. So that girl who really does have anorexia has accomplished what all the other girls talk about but have never achieved. That becomes her defining sense of self: I’m the really skinny girl, that’s an accomplishment. It’s not a cry for help—in fact, they don’t want grown-ups to pay attention because they don’t want someone to take that achievement, that identity, away from them. The pro-ana websites [celebrating anorexia] that girls create promote the idea that skinny girls look good in any kind of clothes, and “I can live on mindpower alone,” and create a very unhealthy online community in which it’s normal to be anorexic. These girls believe it’s a lifestyle choice, not a pathology.

Q: Cutting, self-harm, does seem pathological. How prevalent is it?
A: It used to be very rare, less than one per cent of kids in a community would do this. In a 2008 study from the Yale school of medicine where they talked to girls 10 to 14 years of age, 36 per cent said they had in the past year cut themselves with razors or burned themselves with matches. In a very well-executed study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal two years ago, a demographically representative sample of young people 14 to 21 years of age was surveyed in Victoria, and there was an overall prevalence of roughly 16 per cent. Although in the abstract there’s no mention of sex differences, if you pull up the tables you see that only eight per cent of boys but 24 per cent of girls were cutting or burning themselves.

Q: Do boys and girls cut for the same reasons?
A: The way to answer that is to talk about who is doing this. It’s a small subset of boys, and they are, bluntly, the boys who have no friends, who are ostracized. The guy who’s captain of the hockey team, who’s popular, is not secretly cutting himself with razor blades. But the girl who’s very popular, captain of the basketball team and doing well in school, is as likely—maybe even more likely—than the average girl to be cutting.

Q: Why would successful girls do this?
A: Because they haven’t been living, they’ve been performing. The girls themselves tell you, “I cut myself because it’s real, it’s not fake.” It’s not a cry for help: most girls don’t want adults knowing they’re cutting, which is why they cut in places we won’t see, like high up on the inner thigh. And they don’t want to kill themselves. There’s research which is quite astonishing to many people: when girls cut themselves, they are getting a release of endogenous opiates—they’re actually getting high.

Q: You cite research showing that nearly one-quarter of American girls begin drinking before the age of 13. How does girls’ use of alcohol compare to boys’?
A: Forty years ago, in an affluent suburb, it would’ve been very unusual to find a girl abusing alcohol. Today, a girl is at least as likely as her brother to abuse alcohol. That’s unprecedented, a huge change from all previous eras of which we have any record. Boys’ use of alcohol has been pretty flat for decades, but girls’ use has increased and research shows that about 55 per cent of university students being treated for alcohol abuse are female. It appears that females metabolize alcohol differently than males, and as a result, a girl having four drinks is the same as a boy having five drinks, even if their height and weight is exactly the same. Alcohol seems to be more toxic for females, milligram for milligram, than for males.

Q: Why are girls suddenly drinking so much more?
A: I’m sure there are a lot of things going on, but one factor is that alcohol relieves anxiety, at least while you’re drinking, and we’ve got a lot more anxious girls. Another reason is that girls are hungry for an authentic sense of self, and some find it in alcohol. This 14-year-old who gets drunk—that becomes, for her, a defining feature. She’s proud that other kids look up to her as the girl who knows how to get booze and who isn’t afraid to drink. It becomes part of her sense of self, and it’s real, it’s genuine, it’s not something she photoshopped.

Q: What are parents doing wrong?
A: Parents have this 1980s mindset that you should give your child autonomy and independence, let your children make their own mistakes. One father said to me, “I don’t think it’s any of my business what my daughter’s doing on her Facebook page.” That ’80s mindset is wildly inappropriate in the 21st century. Parents need to understand it’s a dangerous world these teenagers have created. The story of Phoebe Prince, the girl in Massachusetts who recently committed suicide after cyberbullying, is just one more particularly dramatic illustration that 15-year-olds are not adults, they’re not competent to police themselves, and that’s why they need adults to be engaged in their world.

Q: But many parents feel they just can’t do anything about their kids’ use of the Internet. Realistically, how do you regulate your daughter’s online life?
A: Set limits: “No more than 30 minutes on school nights.” Monitor: there’s software that allows you to know what your daughter’s doing online. And she should not have the computer in her bedroom, it has to be in a public space. She has to know that you know what she’s doing with her email, what kinds of pictures she’s sending and receiving on her cellphone, and her friends need to know that you are keeping tabs. At the very least, take away her cellphone from 10 at night until six in the morning. There are so many girls who take the cellphone to bed with them, and they’re getting a text at two in the morning: “Oh my God, Justin, your so-called boyfriend, was with another girl at the party tonight.” Now the girl is frantically texting back, she won’t be going to sleep anytime soon, so when she stumbles into school the next morning she will look like a girl with ADD, because sleep deprivation perfectly mimics attention deficit.

Q: That’s one thing if she’s 12. But what if she’s 16 and has had a cell and computer in her room for years?
A: I don’t have any easy tips for that situation. The major battles happen when you try to change rules that have been in place for years, which is why I advise parents to start as early as possible. A 16-year-old may well say, “I hate you, you’re totally ruining my life.” But your job as a parent is to keep your child safe, that’s number one. Your child’s anger is something you have to be willing to accept.


 

Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls

  1. Maybe I'm in denial (I don't have kids yet) but a lot of this seems exaggerated. I just find it really hard to believe that 1 in 5 girls is cutting, etc. I'm not saying there isn't a problem, but some of it seems like a growth of age-old problems than something brand new.

    That said I do think girls face a lot of problems these days. They are now expected to perform just as well as (or better than) boys in school and sports, and they are expected to get into a good school and get a good career. But while we've added all these new pressures we haven't taken any of the old ones away. Girls are still objectified by boys and we raise them with the same old double standards (no one is fretting about boys sleeping around).

    It's too bad the article doesn't look at some of the positives too, though. There are many girls doing terrific things with their lives and they aren't all lying awake at night cutting themselves.

    • You are in denial, trust me : )

      • You are definitely in denial. He is bang on the money. Some years ago, there was another warning – a book called "Reviving Ophelia"; about the effect of our toxic culture on girls particularly.

        You didn't read the article, John D. He said that girls who are cutting are often, quite often, the successful girls. We had the issue – my daughter was in a class for gifted kids – high IQ. In one class – about 8 of them were cutting themselves. All of them had high marks, many went on to International Baccalaureate classes.

        • John D, I guess I should of being more specific with my answer, I was trying to be funny, because having kids is a lot of work, but in my life experience I have never seen any this.

          Margaret, that's unfortunate that you had to know girls hurting like that. perhaps that's coming directly from home to much pressure, I don't know. My experience has been very positive, hard work but positive, I had kids because that was my dream and it has been the greatest plasure to raise them to become, compassionate, strong, caring, peaceful human beings, I believe it starts at home by example, and how you relate to them, parenting is not just to provide shelter and food, it's a lot more, so I don't know if has anything to do with my parenting styl;e or just got lucky but haven't seeing nothing negative with my kids. As for their friends, my home is party central they are always here and so far haven't seeing anything of concern. Again, I have seen very involved parents in a positive way.

          • I guess your kids are not teenagers yet. If so, you have to write a book, too sharing your success.

        • Wow Margaret just because ur daughter was/ is in a bad class does not mean that the world is like that.

    • Women fought for years for equality. I don't think women in general face more problems than men; society works a different way than it did 50 years ago. I think girls under the age of 10 are the easiest target for large corporations. Put Joe Jonas face on a pack of smokes and I bet you that becomes the new "girl problem."

    • Coming from a high school student I would could count maybe thirty girls who cut themselves. and lets be honest, its not like they advertise it, most of them are seeing therapists and take anti-depressant pills. All of these girls are wealthy, smart, and popular. The only reason I know tis is because of my girlfriend.

      • I know exactly what you mean. I've dated or know girls like this. It's hard as a guy to know what to do. You can see the pain and stress that they are trying to work through.

    • I work with youth, its what I do everyday. I talk to girls each week who are struggling with all this stuff. The most common thing I have found is that when girls struggle with these issues (especially when they keep all or most of them well hidden for a time) is that by the time they hit a new stage in life things explode and they can't figure out why. What I mean is that they get into university and its a complete life change, or they're out of school and not working, or they begin a career and for almost all the girls I am tracking with right now their life literally comes apart at the seams 4 or 5 months in. The persona they have put on, the coping mechanisms they have built up etc. aren't working in the new situations so things have to inevitably change for better or worse, but their lives never stay the same.
      Right on the money with this article – thanks for publishing it, and helping me have a better sense of what other professionals are discovering.

    • No one frets about boys sleeping around? While frets is a strong word, honestly I think its disgusting. When one person takes advantage of the fact that he or she is more callous then others it is just another form of bullying.

    • Fa-fa-fa-fa-fashion.

      Call me glib, but I'll bet dollars to dismorphia that this cutting thing is over in five or ten years, all without any great change in the composite psychology of teen-aged girls.

      I'm pretty sure that a lot of girls are doing mostly because a lot of girls are doing it. Like past hang-wringing trends from young men killing themselves in fits of "Werther Fever" liebestod (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrows_of_Young_Werther#Cultural_impact) to Beatlemaniacal young women peeing themselves at concerts, this too shall pass and we'll wonder what all the fuss was … as we start worrying about all of these young boys who are wearing their pants belted up so tightly under their ribcages that it's restricting their breathing.

      We risk a long, fruitless wild goose chase if we try to read too much significance into teen-aged mania. Fruitless, that is, unless one writes books and lectures about the precise sort of handcart in which our children are head directly to hell.

  2. This is the most ridiculous generalization if teenage girls.
    The enforcement recomendations are only going to push teenagers and hate their parents. The only real way to deal with this would be to make your daughter comfortable talking to you by not imposing strict rules while all her friends are given liberties.
    The reasons given in this interview explaining why girls are doing this are way far off. The majority of girls I knew who had cut themselves were doing it for attention. Girls who binge drink are doing so socially, while this interview makes it seem as though they are drinking alone and becoming alcoholics. And self image issues are becoming prevalent because it does matter, but such issues were only not vocalized in past generations because the standard for being skinny were far easier to achieve.
    This man does not understand teenage girls because he is basing his research on exactly that: research. The adolescent mind cannot be understood through data and surveys. Girls are very, very different than this interview gives them credit for. And frankly, as a teenage girl, I’m offended by these generalizations.

    • I'm more inclined to believe the research of a scientist, who has data that can be independently verified, then the opinion of a teenage girl who gets her information from girls that she knew.

      • Overall a good article but C raises some good points.

        Why are you so confident in the data Steve? One in five girls cutting themselves is absolutely ludicrous. When you are getting 14 yr old girls to self report it is possible that the results may be far from accurate.

    • But you're generalizing too, by trying to analyze all teen girls by those you know

    • Thank you, C., for speaking up.

      It is refreshing to hear the perspective of an actual teenage girl, whose direct experience and observations should be seen as valid and insightful, rather than dismissed, as they seem to be by some replies here.

    • I actually agree with a lot of this article. I’m a 19 year old girl now in University, so I’ve been through the high school years, and what I can say is that a lot of it is exactly as it is portrayed in this piece.

      I know a lot of people who had identity crises in the high school years. Some of the girls I know used to cut, and not for attention but because they had serious depression issues. Others binge drank, maybe not necessarily because they were depressed, and not alone, but I’m not talking about the social drinking type of thing either…. it’s like at a party, everyone thinks it’s hilarious when people drink until they pass out or throw up. Self-harm today is so much more than some “emo” kid cutting him or herself. Depression and anxiety are real monsters hiding under the bed, and it’s a lot to deal with.

      Oral sex is not uncommon among grade 9’s; I know it’s experimentation, pushing limits and trying to work up the social ladder, but to me it’s sad to watch girls try to be older and more mature, when they should be enjoying being kids. What happens to their inner ideas about things like love? How about trust? Intimacy?

      How parents are ignorant to ALL of this doesn’t surprise me at all, but it does make me so angry at them- so many teenagers are abandoned by their parents, whether because the parents give up trying to correct rebellious behaviour or because they are hiding their heads in the sand thinking their child would never do that.

      Luckily, most of us still manage to turn out ok after high school. We get through it.

      • Perhaps I'm becoming an overly-cynical online commenter, but I'm not buying that the "teenage girls" commenting on this article are for reals.

      • I agree with CR#1 on this, I'm her age but am a boy but I talk to a lot of girls seeking advice especially the younger ones and I know many friends who are girls who are experiencing these issues. This is unhealthy for both genders and I blame the media for a bulk of this (not to say that it's entirely their fault, external factors also contribute to this). The number one thing that I keep telling girls are the ones that claim they are fat even though they are close to becoming underweight, this causes me to be very concerned as a friend. When people are underweight, it may contribute to many side-effects and the media is fuelling this by sending out messages saying that guys only care if girls are thin and etc.

    • He doesn't say anything about strict rules he advises parents to get involved. As a 21-year old woman who STILL has rules to follow while living under my parents' roof I'm incredibly thankful for the pressure that they put on me when I was in my teens. It kept me out of a lot of trouble, away from countless situations gone wrong, etc. And based on the teenage girls that I spend time with and observe, this article is completely accurate.

    • Having read the article, the response (and then the subsequent responses) I feel the main issue here is the scientific credibility of a sample size and survey responses vs. the validity of a teenage girls experience.

      As a high school science teacher (male) I can not comment on the actual thoughts of the teenage girls I am around everyday. That being said, the teenage girls can only comment on their thoughts, not those around them, and so they have no more credibility than a middle aged man or anyone else. You have every right to disagree based on your experience but it is far more credible to base an opinion on some data than on your own feelings alone.

      As far as the science goes, all of these pseduo-scientific studies go they need to be taken with a grain of salt. As on reply stated extrapolating data from Victoria over the rest of Canada is next to ridiculous, as is making the jump to 1/5 girls that cut themselves. Usually these types of claims are skewed because they rarely have even an adequate response group let alone a statistically valid one.

    • That's because you're a teenage girl. They aren't generalizations either, it's what is happened to a vast majority of teenage girls today. Luckily, you are not part of this observation.

      I am a teenage girl also, and I KNOW for a fact that this is very true.

    • And I'm offended by people who are as dense as you are, and who refuse to look at the facts. People like you just make it worse for girls, because you are not looking at reality. He is not just "basing it on research". He's a doctor and a psychologist who works with these girls every day. How can you be so dumb?

      • Margaret… Why can't you contribute to this conversation in an intelligent way instead of resorting to insults?

  3. When you interview Sax again (in two years?) ask more questions about the parents of these kids and what they are doing/not doing.

    And yes. It is appalling that 24 per cent of teenage girls and boys are so unsettled, but for every one of them three others are relatively better off. What are the differences between teens that are maturing, growing, and avoiding Sax's list of soul-pathologies? In short, stop giving us stats on how many are going wrong and give us more information about those who are going right.

  4. For all of the good epidemiologic evidence Dr. Sax cites, I still think he makes some dangerous sweeping generalizations about gender and generational differences that I don't believe are empirically supported. For example, to say that sex wasn't used as a commodity in the '70s and '80s is something that I would disagree with, but there is likely no existing evidence to dispute his claim. I also doubt that males spend less time/thought presenting an image on social networking sites, but again, difficult to prove or disprove.

    Also, statistics saying that higher numbers of females have anxiety/depression and are on anti-depressants are essentially meaningless, since depression is diagnosed much more than it would previously have been (it may in fact be overdiagnosed). I'm not necessarily saying his thesis is incorrect, I just don't know that it is supported by empirical facts at this time.

    • Sex now is totally different. Girls servicing boys with blow jobs is now commonplace, and goes on at parties. When I was a teenager, any girl who did that would be considered a whore, and have no friends. Now – it's respectable almost. There's a documentary about it – produced in the US, and there have been multiple shows on the topic. Time to wake up.

      • Giving a guy a blow job still isnt respectable. You are still considered a whore and a slut , times have changed, but peoples view hasn't.

  5. Good point, and I'm not sure I agree that "less freedom" is the way to fix these girls. Yes, you can't be blind to what they are doing, especially online. But when I was in university the kids (male and female) that behaved the most destructively were those who came from over-structured households. They didn't have any freedom in high school, so once they left home they just went crazy.

  6. What girls read in more recently published magazines, online, in books, etc that address their concerns about body image issues suggest that "it's normal to feel this" or "lots of girls/women worry about this".

    I would posit that the girls who end up binge drinking, cutting themselves, and becoming depressed, waking in the middle of the night worrying, are not interpreting that message as "you're normal, so you can stop fretting now" but rather "it's okay to stress about these things, please continue to do so."

  7. "The dangerously empty lives of teenage girls" is an interesting title, though I know it's not Sax's. He provides no evidence that girls' lives are more empty than boys, just that they are more worried about it.

    • You really don't get it, do you?

      • what doesn't he get o' all knowing Margret? would you care to share this information with us lowly peasants or is he unworthy of your intellect and grace? or is it just possible you are just angry with what he said and have no logical reason to back you question?

    • Actually, my impression is that it's Sax who broadcasts worry about girls' allegedly "empty lives" when the boys lives that he summarizes – with just as pathetic, sub-Oprah thumbnail sketches – are presented as just as empty but not worrisome. I am concerned about someone who wants to bring back Single Sex Public Education, damn the torpedoes.

  8. How do you know she's an "actual teenage girl"?

    Why is a claim made on an online forum by an anonymous source more "refreshing" to you than peer-reviewed studies whose very nature is to extrapolate from a wide range of experiences?

    • It's taken from a study in Victoria, most likely not from a great variety of high schools.
      You can compare two high schools in one city, even ones that are in the same neighbourhood, and you will get drastically different statistics.
      Each school has a different rep that they always live up to. Some school are full of nerds, some are full of athletes, some are the 'party schools', some are the 'stoner schools', and at some there are daycares because so many students have children. And likely, in a city, these vastly different high school are within 15 km of one another.

      And yes, I'm an actual teenage girl. What would be the point in pretending something like that? That would just be sad.

  9. I think the truth lies somewhere in between what 'C' said above, and this interview. At the end of the day, it's not about statistics and anomalies, it's about people. Your daughter, your sister, your friend, you. And it's about relationships. I don't think I'd be half the person I was if I didn't have the mother and father I did – there's no amount of websites and tabs that can replace actual parenting.

    Some of the most important lessons I learned about myself and life, I learned through countless conversations between my mother and me. Some were fun, others were hard, and both of us worked very hard (and still do) at our relationship. Which is why, when I felt down, or anxious, or isolated, I could talk to her and cry and vent and be a general pain in the butt. And even though she made her share of mistakes, and we had our share of power struggles, she stuck by me. That's what is needed, to look past your kids' anger and tantrums and stick to the basics.

    No one learns how to value themselves simply on their own. I think kids, girls in particular, have to be taught their worth. And yes, argue if you will, but that is primarily a parents' job. You can't just throw your hands up saying that it's none of your business. It IS your business. Every day it is your business. That is the responsibility you have taken on and hopefully if you do it for long enough, your kids will take on that responsibility in their turn.

    • Arr – this is not about you and your world. This is about trends in the population. I can never understand people who read information like this, and then say "well it didn't happen to me so it can't possibly be true". I also find that people who talk like that are usually deeper in denial than those who will face the facts honestly.

      This isn't a time for you to brag about your supposedly perfect upbringing – it's a time for you to drop all your pretenses, fakery and B.S. and take a look at the facts. I suspect you have a few of the problems yourself.

      • Margaret, Shame on you! Take a look at Arr's picture – she was recently a teen and has made a good point. She experienced the anxiety and issues the doctor talked about but turned to her mother to work through them by "talking, venting, crying", in other words communicating. She isn't saying she is perfect or had the perfect upbringing.

      • because scientists and peer review are so infallible right? often these statistics are relying on the idea that any previous surveys are completely accurate. however they rarely take into account the difference between the growth of occurrence and the growth of observation.

    • Thanks for sharing this experience.

      For everyone who is asking "well you've told us what's wrong, how do we do it right?" take a look at this and think.

      She is crediting her parents for her self esteem and self worth. Their parenting and relationship with her made her development possible. I agree that my parent's involvement in my life (internet and phone use, knowledge of who my friends are, where I am and what I'm doing) are what got me through with minor and non-life threatening bruises and scratches. I'm aware I'm off topic from the original article and it's presented facts, but I'd much rather look at trying to fix a problem than dispute the exact precise degree of problem. No parents are perfect, she's not claiming hers were, but the INVOLVEMENT in her (and mine, and other's) life is what helped mitigate the negative effects of current teen internet/media/objectification/commodity culture as discussed in this interview.

      I like recommendations, moving forward, shared experience of what has and hasn't worked so while some of you are arguing over the number of straw pieces in a bale of hay, I'll be getting involved in the lives of the girls I coach, asking questions, offering support, and hopefully MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

      It's unfair to insinuate that she doesn't see an issue and I think it is rude to attack her personally "drop all your pretenses…." Margaret, no offense intended, but if you're trolling, please stop it.

  10. So you'd believe that a middle aged man would have more insight into the lives of teenage girls than an actual teenage girl?
    I have gotten many of my friends to read this article, and none of us can believe the ignorant, insulting accusations being made about teenage girls. The title alone was enough to anger most of us.
    My friends and I are especially bothered because the girls we know are the ones who binge drink, are sexually active, and care too much about how they look.
    But realistically, the motives behind all of this behaviour are far different from what Dr. Sax believes them to be.
    If a teenage boy sleeps around, he's applauded by friends and parents regard it with a 'boys will be boys' attitude.

    • Yes actually, I would believe a scientist with years of experience in gathering objective data and interpreting research based on the observed behaviour of thousands of teenagers and their eventual development into adulthood. At the very least, I would trust his expertise far more than the defensive opinion of a single teenager and a handful of friends, all themselves still mired in adolescence and thusly unable to provide truly objective, retrospective feedback as to the actual motives for their day to day activities and reactiions to stress as teenagers (as none of us are particularly good at explaining our motives in the moment, and become defensive at the insight of others.)

      In short, tell me your thoughts once you're on the other side of all that he's talking about.

      This is not to say everything Dr. Sax says is correct; however, while he may not represent every teenage girl out there, he has a lot more valuable insight from direct experience with adolecents than many of us could ever hope to attain. As with any media, this should be taken with appropriate constructive criticism, but these in depth observations are certainly worth consideration, debate and discussion.

  11. (cntd)
    There are few concerns about boys becoming sexually active too young. But a girl doing the same is boarded up in her room until university? If anything, most of the rebellious behaviour is a reaction against over controlling parents.
    In fact, I know more girls who have lied about cutting than girls who actually have.
    I don't think you can fully statistical data about teenagers. Who was part of this? No one I know has ever been surveyed. They take a small sample size and apply it nationally? That's not fair.

    • a key that unlocks a whole bunch of locks is pretty awesome.
      a lock that thats opened by a whole bunch of keys is just poor security.

  12. They take a small sample size and apply it nationally? That's not fair.
    It's what people in research refer to as a case study, and statistical testing indicates that it is a valid research technique. Applying research results from Victora to a national scope is a bit dubious, I'll grant you, but not completely illegitimate.

    Who was part of this? No one I know has ever been surveyed.
    Research does not revolve around you and your friends. A study of this nature requires a randomly-selected sample (not self-selected, as you're suggesting would be "more accurate"). Random sampling is a best-practice technique across the research industry, and has been accepted for (well) over 50 years. And yes, I'd make this argument if you were an 80 year old man complaining about not being called for an election poll, too. Think of it as a blood test – the doctor doesn't need to drain all your blood to find out if you're sick. They take a sample and test it.

  13. One of the best interviews I've read in a long time.
    Except the part about pro-ana websites celebrating the achievement of eating disorders is wrong. Pro-ana websites provide support to those individuals struggling with eating disorders. Pro-anorexia websites are the ones that encourage eating disorders and view them as a lifestyle, not as a mental illness.

  14. "In short, stop giving us stats on how many are going wrong and give us more information about those who are going right."

    I concur. Trying to create a success out of studying only failure is a doomed cause indeed. I'd like to see some comparative data.

  15. A clarification: girls don't cut themselves for attention, though other girls may believe it's true. They cut themselves because they are experiencing unbelievable stress and anxiety and find that cutting (temporarily) provides a way to cope. Since teenagers are reading this (and they should — and should comment; I don't buy everything this guy says either) here are some helpful resources if you are cutting or have a friend who is. Please take time to share these links:
    http://self-injury.net/information-recovery/recov… andhttp://www.palace.net/~llama/psych/injury.html are the best ones. I've also heard good things about Stopping the Pain: A Workbook for Teens who Self-Injure.

  16. I understand the concept of a randomly selected sample. And that it doesn't revolve around me and my friends. But it's my demographic that's being accused of this, so keep the generalizations applicable elsewhere.

  17. It's the girls who cut themselves and keep it to themselves who are suffering. But it would surprise most adults how many girls publicly claim to do so between grades 7 and 9.

    • True. And I think it's contagious.

  18. When you're describing the experiences of adolescence, the qualitative – the experiential stuff that C is referring to – is just as important as the quantitative.

    A good point to take from a fulsome reading of this is that girls are facing a broad array of issues and challenges, as are boys – but they respond to them in remarkably different ways.

  19. Anything that is transgressive and dramatic will eventually inspire fashionable mimicry among school-goers.

  20. Unfortunately, it IS pro-ana websites that encourage eating disorders and view anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle, rather than as pathological behaviours. Pro-ana websites are dangerously deceptive because they conflate help for those individuals struggling with eating disorders with guidance for those who want to learn more about eating disorders. Pro-ana, pro-mia, and pro-bulimia or anorexia are one and the same.

  21. sorry, to clarify, i ment if it was those two groupings of people cutting.

  22. So if its the boys who are unpopular or ostrasized, and the girls who are popular who are really just putting on an act, what about those girls who are ostrasized by these girls? the only ones he talks about are the so called popular girls, and how tough their lives really are. what about the girls who are constantly put down by their peers? who helps them, really?

    • If it makes you feel any better, I was one of those ostracised teenage girls. If you make it through as an outsider, you turn out strong and well-adjusted. I don't regret my high school experience and I love my adult life.

  23. I find it interesting to read all the comments! But really….I think many of you are missing the boat here. First of all, yes, there are a lot of good things going on with teenage girls…but this article is not about the good things…my own view is that boys have not changed all that much but that girls have. Girls just "say yes" much more often than they did in the past. Truth be told, many girls who are having sex at a young age will admit after the fact that they wish they could have said no…they end up consenting under pressure. This actually causes depression, anxiety, self-destructive behaviour and yes, drug and alcohol abuse…a lot of kids who think they're being "free" are not feeling "free" enough to say no…so it's not a matter of giving girls the same "rights". They have the same rights but feel differently about sex than boys do, at least in the teenage years. When girls really feel "free", they tend to say no more often, at least while in high school.

    • Absolutely – good post.

    • I agree as well…additionally, girls are often damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they *do*, then they're loose, and if they *don't*, then they're rejects. My daughter went through this awful paradox during her teen years and it made life a living hell for everyone concerned.

      Some of the crap that she was inundated with every day at school, through social media, and the rest of it, only served to confuse her and she nearly succumbed to the pressure. I did everything I could to make her feel like she was important, but when you have the rest of the world making a liar out of you, success can be somewhat limited.

      Society is very dysfunctional now, and one can see it in every aspect of daily life, from education right through to Western politics, and I fear for future generations. I can only hope that my grandson grows up to respect girls and women as equals.

  24. I'm a 16 year old girl, and although some of this is true, i dont agree with most of it.
    We are confident in who we are. we're told to be who we wanna be, but our parents restrict us. Atleast in my home.
    I'm told to be who i wanna be, but i cant do this or that. I'm told to go see my friends, but i'm not aloud out. Instead i'm conformed to working, and being my parents puppet. If i cant do something right, might as well not do it at all. The reason girls have changed and boys haven't is because our parents are more strict on the girls then they are boys. Boys cant go get raped and pregnant, so they can do what they want. If girls were aloud to be able to do what want within restrictions, i think things would be much different.

    • As quoted by Kaileea B:
      '…we're told to be who we wanna be, but our parents restrict us…'
      '…If girls were aloud [I agree-yikes!] to be able to do what want within restrictions…'

      WTF-it's the same damn ting! Parents are NOT meant to be your friends-they are there to help guide, direct & make the tough love decisions sometimes.

      Teenagers are still some of the most self centered & ignorant people around & I should know-I used to be one, so you can forget all the thumbs down-unless you didn't yourself pass thru that age bracket.

  25. If i could tell you all the things that happens here in my school, parties, and let alone my own house. All your information would be worthless. If i didnt have my laptop or cellphone at 2 in the morning, i have several friends that are girls that could be dead right now because i didnt spend the night calming them down. Just think about that. I agree with muddy, when we feel free, we dont need to do stupid thing. we break rules, and do bad things because we feel like we have to.

  26. I have a problem with the title of this article. Try replacing the words teenage girls with any other group in our society and there would be outrage. "Inside the Dangerously Empty Lives of Mothers or Fathers or Teachers or Doctors…. The title alone makes sweeping judgements about teenage girls and lends to the assumption that teenage girls are vacuous, self involved, unproductive people. Of course this is true for a portion of any group but I doubt the front of Maclean's would not have dared to use the same title on anyone other group.

    • Except children are raised by society (both as individuals and collectively) so it's not a good comparison. If they do have dangerously empty lives we need to do something about it. It's ok to be paternalistic because, well, there's paternity involved. It would be like saying "Inside the Dangerously Empty Lives of Orphans" or "Inside the Dangerously Empty Lives of Toddlers." Actually, that last one is probably a reality show.

      • You have a good point with regards to the group being children. That said it does make sweeping judgements that I do not believe to be true. All the title needed was the word "some" which of course wouldn't sell as many copies.

    • The assumption is right-generally teenage girls are in fact mostly vacuous & self involved-not all of them, most MOST of them.
      And what's so wrong with raising a warning flag? Maybe some of the loser liberal parents will finally wake up & take an active role in their kids lives before it's too late.

  27. Welcome to the new progressive society, and the fruits of modern feminism. Girls have been made into neurotic sex-objects, boys have been made into infants.

    And it's only a work in progress – by the end women will have been much more severely damaged than this, both by feminism's impact on their happiness and self-esteem and by the inevitable backlash when infantile boys who view women as "things" rather than "people" begin to reassert themselves.

    • Girls, back in the kitchen, trust me you'll be happy.

      • While you're at it, take the advice of the Senator Ruth and just shut the fuck up.

      • (Apparently, comments with F— in them get immediately deleted. Good to know.) Anyway, re-posting my original comment:

        While you're at it girls, take the advice of Senator Ruth and Shut the F— up.

    • This basically echoes my own thoughts on the matter.

    • As incendiary as this comment is, and as misguided, I have to agree with its main argument, as long as we're careful to differentiate "modern" feminism from its more pragmatic, reasonable and responsible earlier form – which was intended to bring women out of gross cultural inequality and give them the status of equal citizens.

      It seems to me that most modern "rights" groups: Feminist, mother's rights, father's rights, various racial/cultural rights, etc… seem to have been largely taken over by radicals who could care less how their relative "out-groups" may be harmed by their ideology. Most of them (including "modern" feminism) seem to want revenge rather than justice; to incite rather than educate, guide or correct.

  28. I have an 11 year old boy who tells me that cutting IS prevelant amongst his peers. And it's always girls.

    Regardless of whether or not this is actually happening, it seems to me that it is an image being used to garner some kind of rebelious or dangerous mystique. This is troubling.

    • My close exposure to teenage girls is rather limited to raising one who generally was no problem and who turned out really well and another who is the grand-daughter of my second wife. This grandaughter got messed up and had all the classic signs. She had an absent father, an idiot pot smoking mother, she fixated on any boy who pay her any attention, she briefly went through the self cutting stage(that totally baffled me), got knocked up at 15 by an idiot loser her own age, dropped out of high school, gave the baby away, got into drugs, did meth, ruined her teeth, drifted from job to dead end job, bounced from one loser boyfriend to another and is currently shacked up with a man older than her father, she being now 22 and her sugar daddy 46. But the sugar daddy fixed her teeth and is nice to her and provides stability. I guess she exhibited the classic signs of searching for a father figure, somebody to love her, something she missed growing up. So out of that sampling of two girls, it does not mean half the girls are messed up. It's just my limited experience. I suspect these surveys sometimes for overstating problems.

      • Just wondering, but, how old was the grand-daughter of your second wife when you came into her life? (I suppose that I'm really asking how much time you've had to be a positive influence in the life of that girl, and what efforts you made in that regard. It sounds from your description like you've been on the scene for close to ten years… did you ever get her to a dentist? )

        … and apart from the detailed list you provide of bad decisions she's made as a result of believing herself to be a piece of crap, I can't help but think that there might be some essential missing factors, beyond mere neglect (which is bad enough), that may have contributed to what you perceive to be her downward spiral – factors that you may actually not know about…

        just sayin' – give it a ponder, friend.

        • Well since you asked, here is a summary: That grand-daughter never lived with us, occasionally visited and stayed for a few days at the most. She lived in another town and was about a 4 hour drive away. We got along, I first met her when she was 10, her father had already left her life. I befriended her in a grandfatherly way but as stated, she lived away. I helped her buy a car when she was out on her own but that did not work out as she took the money and wasted it on drugs. I was a bit naive. If she lived in my town, I would have gladly tried to fill that missing gap father figure but that was not to be. As far as any conjecture you may have about abuse, neither I nor her grandmother saw or suspected any. But she grew up poor and that is tough enough these days.

  29. Why do I sense the onset of another rape of the taxpayer to pay for all this brand-new, never-before-seen massive social problem that will devastate society if we don't pour billions of dollars into it.

    I have two much better and cheaper ideas: 1. Cancel the cell phone. Kids don't need them. Neither do adults, but don't get me started. 2. Unplug the computer and throw it out the back window.

    Let me know what major social problem needs solving next. I work cheap.

    • Yeah, such big problems. I am dating myself as a baby boomer but we had equally serious problems(heh) that our parents worried about like long hair, rock and roll, pot and (god almighty) bell bottoms on boys.

    • Don't forget that damn Rock and Roll music!

    • I couldn't agree more. Well said Steve. It's like you read my mind.

      • Ok, I really think that drinking and sex and cutting at the age of 13 is a LITTLE bit MORE important (note the sarcasm) that wearing bell bottoms…. Throwing out the comuter is as stupid as saying – let's go back to the pre-historic age… And cell phones are important – imagine Your daughter has an accident in the middle of nowhere, bleeding out and no cell phone!
        Instead of putting blame on THINGS parents should finally see that what THEY do is important and that instead of giving their children absolute freedom, they should take more active role in raising them and showing them that it's OK to be a little different, that you shouldn't try to fit in at the cost of losing your sense of self.
        So shut the hell up about computers, internet and telephones and start talking to your children!

        • Fur
          Umm, I was being facetious with the 'bell bottom' comment

  30. It's 'allowed' not 'aloud'.
    jesus!. And you are in high school?

    • Way to shoot her down, Canuckguy, real classy given the context of this discussion. Unfortunately for her and her generation, the education system has become a comeplete waste of time, and its total lack of discipline has been a major driver of this type of behaviour.

      Given my wife's experience teaching at a private college, this girl's spelling would easily be in the 90th percentile for people here age. For example, my wife recently gave a spelling test to a class for which she was temporarily filling in as instructor (yes, I know, in my day spelling tests weren't given beyond Grade 6 or so, because by that time everyone should be able to spell). Anyways, everyone of the dozen or so students in her class, high school grads all, were given a list of 30 words to study the night before the test, which comprised 15 of the words on the list. The best result was 13/15; the worst, 2/15. This is the kind of garbage results the Canadian education system is churning out.

      • we're not even talking about effing spelling errors.
        we're talking about how this lame ass leonard sax guy is being sexist and is generalizing everything about the life of teenage girls.
        half the stuff he says is garbage. he thinks he knows what he's talking about but he doesn't.
        i know exactly how kaileea feels. considering i actually know her personally.
        honestly, although some of the stuff may be true in some cases,
        a lot of it is false.
        plus, these are statistics of the United States. these would be totally different to the rest of the world,
        and he's talking about all teenage girls.
        all i can say is,
        Bullshit. You sexist creep. (to leonard sax)

      • JimD, it's just that their literacy skills are pathetic so I can't take anything they say seriously.
        The ignorance is overwhelming and irritating.
        However to be fair, she is not really deserving of my scorn. I apologize for that, Kaileea B.
        The scorn rightly should be directed at the system for letting this educational shoddiness
        continue.

        • Canuckguy… Jesus is with a capital "J". Nice try though, champ.

          • So I missed the 'cap' button. Big deal. Quit nitpicking.
            Lord tunderin' jesus, you've seen how teenages text?
            Spelling and grammer rules don't fit in.
            However it does not in matter in that medium.

          • it's 'teenagers', you dumbass.

          • It's 'teenagers', you idiot.

            P.S. If you comment on a forum or anywhere else online about the spelling or grammar of other posters, you are going to have your comment ripped apart.

          • Holy crap, more nitpickers, I know how to spell, just missed the 'r' while typing.
            Big deal.

  31. Steve, I understand where you are coming from being a baby boomer. However the genie is out of the bottle. There is no turning back the clock.

  32. im 15 and we read part of this in class today and it really got me thinking. from a personal point of view i can relate to a lot of this and i know many other girls who also could. i understand the feelings girls have that hes talking about. for example the lacking scence of self, but i dont cut myself or have panic attacks, i dont even have facebook . the girls i know that have these feelings usually channel it into art or sports or just deal with it… i dont know maybe thats just people i know. on the other hand i know a lot of girls who can't relate to this at all. truthfully i think girls do have more problems then ever but not all girls are affected the same way and there are a lot of generalizations in this article. i'm pretty sure 20% of all girls arn't cutting themselves…i dont know were they would have gotten that from.

    • Glad to see girls reading and commenting on this. I know he's a talented researcher but it does feel like a big generalization. There are a lot of anxious, stressed out boys too (there's a reason people are still buying Catcher in the Rye), but he seems to generalize the worst case scenarios onto all girls, but not fo boys.

    • One word–music. I first got into singing at age 7 and picked up my first guitar (a 12-string Yamaki) at age 11. At 16 I joined my first band and did my first solo gig in a licensed lounge on my 19th birthday (most fun birthday I ever had, and I got paid for it–handsomely!)

      Coming from a dysfunctional family, I daresay that music kept me alive. My father was not absent, but he may as well have been. Music identified me like no father figure ever could. The trick is to devote yourself to it, and when you start getting good and writing your own stuff, you feel whole and fulfilled–and you get fans :D Hit the right venue and find a niche, and you make $$$$, too!

      That was four decades plus ago. I was no prodigy–I really had to work at it–but the effort and expense was worthwhile. I'm soon to be producing e-music (hopefully). Nobody in my city does melodic trance so my field is wide open.

      I'm not wealthy, nor famous–but my life has been enriched beyond words by the ability I developed with a lot of hard work that was also a whole lotta fun.

  33. I am a 19 year old girl and high school and teenage cliques really aren't that far away. Honestly, I was flabbergasted after reading this article. It is the first time, someone really, but really, gets how it's going on right now. And it had to be a man to explain that. I know a lot of people are shocked by the statistics, but I'm pretty sure they aren't far from the reality in Canadian high schools. What people need to understand is that it's not only the ones who take on this hyper sexuality persona that need attention or that have empty lives, it's also the "A-student" and the ones who basically have their social life on the web but are outsiders at school.

    Really I hope people stop being defensive about what Dr. Sax says in the interview and start digging deeper in what he uncovered, which is just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Good for you – for being so honest. My daughter is the same age as you, and we just read this together – she's just nodding her head and agreeing with him. However, she doesn't see how girls who give blow jobs can become more popular, but then she was a "nerd" and didn't bother with the popular preps in school – she had a horse to ride.

      If you want healthy activities for girls — it's horses.

  34. I thought it was interesting how the article paints boys as being healthier than girls, happy with their lack of achievement, video games, and porn. It may be true that boys aren't as depressed as girls, but the description of boys is not a happy one either. They just seem to be less aware of their unhappiness.

    • Yes, but I think it is a male/female difference that runs throughout our lives that Dr. Sax is getting at there: generally females will get quite wound up and anxious about the minutiae of human relationships. In comparative terms, males just don't. It also relates to the fact, backed up by a raft of studies, that for evolutionary reasons, women tend to be more empathetic. And that's a huge source of the kind of social-related anxiety that Dr. Sax is talking about, e.g., getting all wound up because some girl just texted you that so-and-so said this, etc. A lot of guys just say "so what" and turn on the hockey game — and that's true whether they're 15 or 45.

    • If I recall from the last interview/review I read of Sax's book on boys, that's pretty much exactly the point he makes.

    • Boys are simpler. :)

      • In a way, yes, but there are different ways of looking at that. Especially in terms of evolutionary psychology. It makes a ton of sense, in evolutionary terms, for women to be much more empathetic, when they were tasked with bearing and raising children. It actually made sense for men to be more oblivious to the finer points of social interaction, and to focus instead on what back then was the bottom line: hunting, gathering and literally bringing home the bacon.

        This reminds me of a theme I run across consistently in the workplace: certain women will often tell me that they prefer working with men, and would much rather have a man as a boss than a woman, etc. etc. I think part of the reason for that is that, again, men are a bit socially oblivious. But in a way, that kind of ignorance can be a form of bliss. If you're not all worried about what so-and-so is thinking, it's much easier for you to just go ahead with your daily business etc.

      • In a way, yes, but there are different ways of looking at that. Especially in terms of evolutionary psychology. It makes a ton of sense, in evolutionary terms, for women to be much more empathetic, when they were tasked with bearing and raising children. It actually made sense for men to be more oblivious to the finer points of social interaction, and to focus instead on what back then was the bottom line: hunting, gathering and literally bringing home the bacon.

        This reminds me of a theme I run across consistently in the workplace: certain women will often tell me that they prefer working with men, and would much rather have a man as a boss than a woman, etc. etc. I think part of the reason for that is that, again, men are a bit socially oblivious. But in a way, that kind of ignorance can be a form of bliss. If you're not all worried about what so-and-so is thinking, it's much easier for you to just go ahead with your daily business etc.

      • In a way, yes, but there are different ways of looking at that. Especially in terms of evolutionary psychology. It makes a ton of sense, in evolutionary terms, for women to be much more empathetic, when they were tasked with bearing and raising children. It actually made sense for men to be more oblivious to the finer points of social interaction, and to focus instead on what back then was the bottom line: hunting, gathering and literally bringing home the bacon.

        This reminds me of a theme I run across consistently in the workplace: certain women will often tell me that they prefer working with men, and would much rather have a man as a boss than a woman, etc. etc. I think part of the reason for that is that, again, men are a bit socially oblivious. But in a way, that kind of ignorance can be a form of bliss. If you're not all worried about what so-and-so is thinking, it's much easier for you to just go ahead with your daily business etc.

  35. A lot of you are saying that these are just sweeping generalizations and such, but how long has it been since you were in high school? I graduated just 4 years ago, and my 16 yr old brother goes to the same school I did. The changes in the social demographics are exponentially different (for the worse) than they were just a few short years ago when I attended the very same school.
    There were only a handful of girls in my grade that behaved like the article describes, but now it is the social norm. I even went back to my old school just to see if my brother was exaggerating… he wasn't. He even pointed out some of the popular girls, who had all engaged in group sex with some of the hockey team that weekend, and were now casually laughing and talking about it. I overheard them, and as described above, the act was seen as socially elevating.
    This article is a LOT more accurate than most of you seem to think.

    • Hmmm, I'd have to agree, and disagree. I also graduated not long ago (2 years ago), and am still associated with some people who still attend the same high school I attended, and others in the surrounding areas. I think it really depends on what group of people you associate(d) with in order to comment. I knew maaannny girls who lost their virginities between the ages of 12 (i know, ridiculous) and 14. However, other girls in my grad class had no idea, and thought that losing theirs in grade 11 was too young – and hardly knew anyone who had intercourse.
      All in all, I think the author does have accurate information for the most part, however, generalizes a LOT. Since the age of 12 I have known many girls (of all different groups — from sports teams and student council to alternative schooling (for those who are no longer allowed in the regular district)) who cut for all different reasons. Some for attention, others for the "high" as described by the author.
      This article reminded me of talking to a very well "educated" parent who lacked a lot of personal experience.

  36. All in all I have to agree with the premise. The issues being raised are not focused on the entry into sexuality but the role these young women are playing. They are engaging in sexual acts for social status, not because they are ready or in a mutually beneficial relationship. That is a major problem and does lead to self-esteem/self-identity issues. On the same token, whether or not the number of girls with psychological disorders (be it cutting, burning, anorexia, or whatever) is on the rise is supported by numerous other studies, not just this one. So the issue is not whether or not the ratio is 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 or even 1 in 100, but that it is on the rise and it needs to be corrected.

    It may be a difficult tight rope to walk but parents must set boundaries and raise their children, not allow them to flounder through adolescence. Sure they need room to grow and explore and learn but that does not mean give them free riegn to do what they please. All of us need guidance throughout our lives but especially at such an important and influential point.

  37. As an 18 year old girl I was positively THRILLED with this article. Its high time this issue was brought to the front page! As a social outsider at school I see how girls are drinking and performing sexual favours to impress everyone else. It's terrible to watch. I definately agree with "A" Student- this is the tip of the iceberg definately. Parents, its time you found out what goes on behind your teens closed doors. Bravo, Dr. Sax!!!!!

    • At least teenage girls aren't creating multiple online personalities to give themselves a pat on the back in online forums ;)

    • Bravo to you and "A" Student…it's nice to read that there are still some young women out there with standards and morals. I feel for the young women in today's age. There is such a lack of confidence in one another. I can honestly say I am a parent who watches my child closely without smothering them, but with hopes to raise them with proper restrictions, just as my parents did with me. I think todays parenting really needs to be assessed in this, as I believe it is a major cause of the problems in teens today….lack of parenting!

  38. I read Sax described in the context of an article about single-sex classrooms this way:
    "[it] prompted Sax to do that thing where a dude throws all his assumptions into the air, replaces them with a bold new age-old assumption and dives headfirst into a brand new worldview with the help of a few supporting theories, promising studies and convincing anecdotes"

    Sounds about right in the context of this article as well.

  39. I think Dr. Sax's observations are apt and obviously well researched. But I have also worked with teenaged girls for along time, and something that hasn't changed is their need to 'obsess' over something – could be boys, fashion, sex, themselves, drugs/alcohol or it could be art, music, sport etc. – but something will fill that void. For Dr. Sax to lump in the 'quest to be the fastest runner' in with the vapid quest to give the most BJ's is disturbing. I work really hard to try to get girls involved in yes, even obsessed with sport, because that's way better than most alternatives. The danger really lies in too much free time – they will find something to do!! – have them fill it with practice, training, join a team, have a goal – it will not make them shallow or single-minded, it may just be the thing that keeps them away from all life's potholes.

    • It does not matter what form the obsession for perfection takes — the issue is the fact that they need to be best at anything at all. Could be running, studies, clothes, or being popular. You're missing the point. Lots of us deal with teenage girls, but he has enormously more learning and experience than you do.

      • Margaret, why are you such a hater?

    • Your solution is tempting by its simplicity, but I believe it's critically incorrect in one aspect. In my adolescence my ample free time was used reading and exploring nature. It's not free time that's the culprit here – it's NEGLECT. That's not the same thing. Children who have been too sheltered from "all life's potholes" in adolescence frequently encounter much bigger ones in adulthood.

      The "everybody think positive thoughts" mental health system we're cursed with fails to warn anyone that predatory individuals ALWAYS target the vulnerable. Or to warn us about, much less teach us how to defend ourselves against, extremely dangerous phenomena like mobbing, coercive persuasion, etc… In regards to our children, we've not just let the foxes into the henhouse – we've let them take over their culture.

  40. This is a very interesting, and alarming article. Thanks to all the girls speaking up in the comments about their take on the accuracy of these types of assertions among teenagers today. I'm in the same spot as CanSofCom, except I also have a younger sister still in high school. Scary things are happening – these are realities, and it's about time that we start discussing them as realities. LynnTO mentions teen and women's magazines — it's true, these types of publications have been printing real life reports on these topics for a long time, but generally from the angle that it's normal for girls and young women to have these concerns and anxieties – or the story is presented as so wild and crazy that it seems unbelievable or unlikely to be part of a trend. Where is all the real (and current) reporting on these trends??

    The fact is that a LOT of teenage girls are staging their lives online (through Facebook or MySpace) – their social life and persona become everything, and it's a very very toxic way for girls to spend their formative years. This is the age we're in – now how are we going to deal with it? It's crucial to highlight the importance of good relationships between children/teens and their parents, as well as the presence of good female role models in the lives of girls.

    One last thing – when can we start to talk about teen pregnancy from this angle, too? Meaning, not whether there are more or less occurrences, but what are the reasons for teen motherhood these days? The topic gets plenty of press and representation in the media (Juno, Glee, that pregnancy pact in Mass., US a while back) — but I never hear of any real life explorations of it. Plenty of teens are becoming mothers now for reasons that they were not in other generations. There is a sort of cool factor to it, it's acceleration into adulthood, it offers girls the deepest form of human connection in an age when they get most of their social interaction done online, and it is a kind of escape from the social norms and pressures of friends and school. I think Sax's ideas on (lack of) identity in teenage girls apply here too.

    Sorry for the rant.

  41. His conclusions sound strange to me (40yo) – maybe it's crazier in the US. Well…we know: probably, it's crazier in the US.

    In general, I wouldn't be surprised if girls have become the sexual aggressors; boys and men have become much more passive over the past generation – in a non-liberated way, I might add. They now have easy access to porn and cheap electronic toys which just adds to the more typical delayed social intelligence of teenage boys. Also, I suspect there are low-level endocrine problems in a good section of the male population due to estrogen and estrogen-like compounds in the water supply and food containers.

    As for feminism as culprit, if girls were reading the feminist classics (Greer, Montagu, Friedan, Steinem) and the 'Third Wave' feminist books (Faludi, Wolf etc etc), they'd be exhibiting self-respect not self-commodification…..Feminism didn't bring us the current pornification of all things – the crazy 'free market' cult of the last 20 years did. Someone found out how to make a buck off women's greater sexual freedom…surprise, surprise.

  42. Well, I am a teenage girl. A lot of my friends have read this article because all of our parents are pushing us to read this, concerned this is what our lives are actually like. Even our teachers are bringing it up, thinking we'll have a little chit chat about our feelings and issues. See how we're represented to the world, even if it's a small percentage of us who are actually at risk?
    It's not. And we know. We're the ones who drink and are already sexually active. We go to house parties, we spend way too long picking out clothing and getting ready, we work out to try to be thin, and we go to bars before we're legal. It's us this article is talking about. BUT… We know our motives, and they're not what Dr. Sax says. And none of us cut ourselves. We're all involved in school, achieve good grades, and have high aspirations. Yet now way too many Canadians think of us as shallow, empty, self-loathing, and pathetic.
    Thanks, Dr. Sax.

    • The single most compelling reason I have to believe that you are not a teenage is girl is simply this: you write well.

      (Take it as a back-handed compliment if you must.) I like to think I can string a sentence together myself, but at age 16 I was hard pressed to understand exactly how one uses a colon in a sentence. And I don't think I would be generalizing too much if I said the same of my peers.

      • "The single most compelling reason I have to believe that you are not a teenage is girl is simply this: you write well" so the reason you dismiss C's claims is because she does not conform to the image described by Dr. Sax? that has to be the most broken circular argument i have heard in a very very long time. is it just possible that she is in fact an intelligent young woman with well thought out opinions? or does that contradict your clean, neatly cropped world view where every statement must be reviewed by a bunch of conceited university egghead before it is considered true? such is the decline of western civilization i suppose…

        • Ok, let's backtrack and contextualize my comment:

          Not conforming to a scientific sample means that that person is to be considered an outlier. Whether her comments, for her and her friends, are true or not are at this point largely irrelevant in context of the population.

    • Ok C, please tell us what your motivations are?

      Are the girls you know sexting guys?
      Having sex or oral sex with lots of guys to raise their social status or as a form of currancy or bribery?
      Are you going for guys around your age or much older like some articles suggest?
      Why do girls get hit on by lots of guys but still feel they aren't attractive?

      BTW, lots of guys these days don't think of a girl as a slut just because they accept that they are a sexual being. On top of that, lots of guys will call a guy a slut if his behaviour warrents it and we don't mean it as a compliment.

  43. I am a seventeen year old girl, and as I read this interview (on my laptop in my bed room no less) I found myself laughing. I have never cut myself, I don't get drunk, 60% of the time I don't even know where my cellphone is and I sleep through the night. I hate that just by my age and gender I am stereotyped by adults, who think that I am a nervous and irrational teenager. My parents have long trusted me, they have no reason not too, but somehow no one else does. I have a job, do well in school and take time for myself. By comparing girls to boys you are in for trouble and labeling an entire demographic as having "empty lives" is just plain wrong.

  44. Interesting article and I agree with a lot of it. Some points: why do kids need mobile phones in the first place? There’s no reason, They did well without them in the past. I believe it’s illegal for under-16s in the UK to have them. Second, advertisers are doing their damnedest to sexualize youth long before they even hit puberty. Third, in terms of oral sex, what disturbs me that the girl will blow the boy. I think if the girl wants to fellate a boy, he should prepare to return the favour and show that he can pleasure a girl by going down on HIS knees –

    • So correct … why do teens nowadays have blackberrys and iPhones?

  45. I have noticed that girls act more and more like guys. They are aggressive, loud, offensive. It only gets worse when they drink and do drugs. I think there has been a complete masculinization of females in the western world. They are even starting to look masculine. I was in Manitoba and i did not see one female with a shapely form. They were flat chested and overweight. Loud, obnoxious, sexually aggressive. I can't imagine they are happy this way. Thanks, left wing feminists, for screwing up another aspect of human life.

    • "Loud, obnoxious, sexually aggressive. I can't imagine they are happy this way."
      ….And I guess, as a guy, you are? You've just put your own gender down big time! It's not feminists who are responsible for this. Instead, it's loud, obnoxious, sexually aggressive guys in the media, music and ad world who are responsible for peddling the sexually suggestive pornification of girls and making a buck off it.

    • WOW. David, what a insane and ignorant comment. The fact someone would say something like this is partially why these problems even exist in the first place. "I was in Manitoba and i did not see one female with a shapely form.They were flat chested and overweight." What a comment! Completely untrue, and besides the point. If girls were less aggressive, offensive, and loud in the past it was because they were expected to behave in a certain way, and not saying those kinds of behaviours are attractive, but a girl has every right to express herself in these ways as much as any guy. Either way, how is any of this related to girls being "flat chested"? Last I checked that was something that was beyond our control. Honestly, I don't know why I am even bothering responding to this. I just really hope that this kind of ridiculous opinion is not as common as it seems to be.

    • Holy crap!!! Screwed up whose life? Yours???

      True feminism is the realization of self for any woman. True feminism is the full personhood of woman, and I wouldn't have myself any other way. I know who I am, and if you don't like a woman knowing who she herself is, too damned bad for you!!

      Grow up.

  46. I have some expertise in the area of cutting or "self mutilation" as I have worked with many people who harm themselves on a regular basis and are covered with scars. I have also encountered young girls who have "tried cutting" because a friend recommended it to reduce stress. The former are often victims of severe abuse and latter are likely the ones referred to in Dr. Sax's stats. I did want to point out that Dr. Oz recently referred to a phenomenon called "emotional poison" where females pick up on the emotions of their family members, becoming increasingly anxious when their family members are anxious or unwell. Males don't experience this. I think that this could also attribute to the reason that teenage girls are increasingly anxious. I think we can all agree that in our drive to make our lives "bigger and better", we are all more stressed out; why wouldn't our daughters be as well?

    • Males do experience it. I did. That's why I "divorced" my family last summer. Never felt better. I actually finished writing an entire novel! Never would have done that if I allowed myself to be mistreated—and absorb—all the negative emotions of my white trash family.

  47. I laughed when I heard the title of this article. "The empty lives of teenage girls". As a 19 year old girl who has worked very hard throughout school, been involved in my community and many extra curricular activities (because I love doing these things, not for some obsessive reason to look good on paper), I get very frustrated when parenting magazines and such release articles on the extremes of the demographics that are not a true representation of us. Empty lives? That's a great way to boost our self-esteem. I agree that much of this information is accurate, but not in such a concentrated form. There are so many other things going on, POSITIVE things – initiated by teenaged girls, accomplished by teenage girls – that this article greatly discredits.

    As well, I think taking away a cellphone at night or removing the computer from your child's bedroom is pointless. Moves like that just make us resent our parents because its unrealistic in today's society. I have found that the girls I have met in high school and university that greatly display these problems (hyper-sexuality, etc) are ones without prominent family values. Their parents are never home, or they move back and forth between their mom and dad's separate homes, and the parents don't take the time to spend with them. They are left with all this free time with no moral structure and so they look for acceptance in other places. My advice, help them find a passion, spend some time with them and you know what, once they reach university and high school drama disappears, it will all be alright.

    Now I just have to get back to my empty life …

    • Kay, well said .

    • I think Sax is talking about those "popular" girls in school; you know those cheerleaders who are running tirelessly after that hot boy, who also knows he is a hot commodity, so he sleeps around and all those girls still forgive him for his "misgivings". Plus, if they are going to be wearing all those short-short skirts, they need to be that extra thin with those shapely legs. But, after all, how she gonna get famous if she doesn't put her racy and sexual pics on Facebook & MySpace … after all, she wouldn't have a "life", and she certainly doesn't want to be considered a nerdy girl.

      • Colbert, we're all sorry that Charlene broke your heart, but you've got to let her go! Posting comments like this about her on Canadian news magazine websites is beneath you!

  48. i have some advice for Mr. Sax. In order to properly determine the accuracy of your study, how about showing your data to students across the country and examine their responses.

    • Because teenagers get to diagnose themselves now?

  49. Have any of you read the work, "The Myth of Male Power" by Warren P. Farrell? You might find that interesting (and enlightening).

  50. It may be that the girls engaging in early oral sex are the ones lacking a significant male role model. Father, step father or mentor in their lives. I remember when this was spoken of in the 80's and quite a popular and shocking trend. My daughter has a close set of friends she's known since grade school. She's 12 and still gets grossed out at kissing scenes in movies. She's popular, intelligent (gets good grades) and physically attractive. She even asks me – the parent to change the radio station if "Rude Boy " by Rhianna is on the air. Herself! She's extremely independent and strong willed. She is athletic and has a busy schedule with figure skating and ballet. She doesn't have time to think about destroying herself or day dreaming about boys. She does have a friend at school who happens to be a boy she's known since J.K. and they talk as if they are best buds. There seems to be a lack of balance in other girls lives and alot of brainwashing and low self esteem to lead to all the early sexual exposure. After reading the article I feel relieved to know we're not in the same boat.

  51. I found this article to be fair and honest about the goings-on of teenage girls. I agree about the level of anxiety girls face now than even 10 years ago; I think this is because the role of women is evolving. The number of opportunities for women have quadrupled in the last 3o years, with a majority actively pursuing, and this means that the expectations and responsibilities have also increased. To escape reality, women take solace in facebook, drinking and reality tv to an extent. There is a comparison being made here and shown off to other girls to view and judge, as to say, Hey, this is what i've done, this is who I am,aren't I amazing? Depending on the level of self-confidence, maybe not so amazing. In the past, what have men done to show off their achievements? Drinks, cigars? I don't agree with the term empty, it lacks substance and that's inaccurate. Are men's lives empty if they choose to unwind with video games and sports watching? I also don't agree with the hypersexuality of children today, as it fuels online predators and pedophiles. The parenting styles have to also be in question, who's daughters are these at 14 giving blow jobs? Feeling the need to please men? That kind of behavior should be policed at home, discussed at the dinner table as an open forum.

  52. "And you are in high school?".. a sentence starting with "and"? Shameful.

    • sdad:
      It's conversational style. Quit nitpicking.

  53. The title alone of this article had me hooked, as a 16 year old girl; I fit right into the demographic that is supposed to be more anxious then a mental patient. But I don't. Yeah, I drink, and yeah, I smoke, and yes, I've done some really bad things that I regret doing. But that doesn't, under any circumstances mean that I'm at risk of “anorexia of the soul.”

    The author of this article, while he did hit on some major points, missed the boat a little. The idea that social networking sites like Facebook are ruining the lives of teenagers is, for lack of a better word, bull. Having Facebook or Twitter or a cell phone means there is always someone there when you need them. It means you don't have to be alone.

    So while this article was a good read, and well written, and the guy knows how to twist words to make them seem 10x worse then the situation actually is, he needs to talk to actual girls, and he needs to get the information straight from the source instead of relying on charts and numbers to do the talking.

    • "…yeah, I smoke…" – Sophie

      This fact alone establishes that you are an idiot.
      With all we know about the health hazards of smoking, I don't understand why young people these days smoke.
      A filty dirty expensive habit. Smokers stink, it is so not cool.

    • >>The title alone of this article had me hooked, as a 16 year old girl; I fit right into the demographic that is supposed to be more anxious then a mental patient. But I don't. Yeah, I drink, and yeah, I smoke, and yes, I've done some really bad things that I regret doing. But that doesn't, under any circumstances mean that I'm at risk of “anorexia of the soul.”

      The author of this article, while he did hit on some major points, missed the boat a little. The idea that social networking sites like Facebook are ruining the lives of teenagers is, for lack of a better word, bull. Having Facebook or Twitter or a cell phone means there is always someone there when you need them. It means you don't have to be alone.<<

      When he speaks of "anorexia of the soul" he explains that this is the term he uses when "the girl is wasting away on the inside", he describes low self-esteem. You spoke of drinking, smoking, having done things you regret and of having Facebook/Twitter/Cellphone so that you never feel alone. This is what he's talking about. My comment is not meant as a criticism or attack, but I hope you are able to see through it.

  54. As a 15 year girl who's struggled with self injury and an anxiety disorder I found this article rather disturbing. I didn't want people to know about cutting and hitting myself or about my anxiety. I never cornered boys to preform any sexual favours or went out to parties and drank myself sick. Even though I do have a facebook I rarely go on as I find it boring and even when I do I never post pictures of myself on it. The one thing I can relate to is not having a sense of self.

    But with the boys I thought that was completely wrong. I know TONS of young men who have problems with depression and anxiety but they're more afraid of getting help than females tend to be. This article is horribly stereotyped and Dr.Sax really needs to work on actually going in depth into the minds of adolescents, not just asking a few simple questions and digging through a couple of statistics before claiming that males don't really suffer from any of this or that all females feel the way he described.

  55. I think that instead of controlling what girls are doing over the internet, parents should try to encourage their daughters to be themselves, show them that there are many different ways of expressing oneself. Girls will always try to impress other girls, that's just the way we are built. The important thing is to understand that we shouldn't force ourselves to do things just to fit in.

  56. Very open to comments! These topics all pertain to my minor in gender studies, which I chose to study because I find people views on them fascinating! :) We have already looked at this article in class!

  57. Better for decent people, of all persuasions, to extricate themselves and get back to the business of (re)building decent families, communities and societies. Let the radicals fight it out amongst themselves if they want, but we should all be working harder to get more airwaves and media attention on the decent members of society in the middle, so that they can positively influence our youth away from unhealthy elements – rather than the other way round.

  58. The "everybody think positive thoughts" mental health system we're cursed with fails to warn anyone that predatory individuals ALWAYS target the vulnerable. Or to warn us about, much less teach us how to defend ourselves against, extremely dangerous phenomena like mobbing, coercive persuasion, etc… In regards to our children, we've not just let the foxes into the henhouse – we've let them take over their culture.

  59. My daughter is 15, and when she read this article, she said it's so true in the high school she goes to. She knows of many of her peers are "cutting" and has admitted to doing it herself, and sexual favours are so common that kids are posting the latest escapades on Facebook after parties. I know many of the parents of these girls, and they are not, to my knowledge, neglecting their daughters, nor is there any lack of love in their homes.
    I do what I can as a parent, talking constantly about choices, behaviour, self-respect, asking questions about "how would that make you feel if…….", and presenting options when, as it inevitably will, a situation arises that she may feel unsure or uncomfortable about. I emphasize personal safety frequently.
    I think she gets it that life is not about the things you own, and that shopping is not a recreational activity or a sport.
    But she struggles every day with the types of negative peer pressure that surrounds her, and has, like many of her peers, made some questionable choices. Thank God she has an older brother that helps keep her grounded and sane. And a mother and father who listen when she wants to talk.

    • By the time this trend enters the realm of "normalized" peer pressure it impacts those children who haven't been neglected. But believe me, it starts with a critical mass of neglected children – both male and female.

      Kate, You're obviously a good parent. You also appear to be a reasonable, and astute, individual when you wrote "they are not , TO MY KNOWLEDGE, neglecting their daughters". Far too many children are abused and neglected by "saintly-appearing" parents, and you are at least open to the possibility that there is more to the story.

      What hasn't been stated here clearly enough is that "cutting" and promiscuity were almost exclusively a response to extreme physical or sexual abuse – cutting is used to relieve unbearable psychological torment. Somehow we've let the behaviour of abuse victims (or more likely victim/perpetrators) remain unaddressed and unchallenged and thus become "cool", and both abuse victims and victim/perpetrators have become peer role models for properly parented children.

      • Correction to my comment above. I should have said:

        "Somehow we've let the behaviour of UNTREATED abuse victims (or more likely victim/perpetrators) remain unaddressed and unchallenged and thus become "cool", and both UNTREATED abuse victims and victim/perpetrators have become peer role models for properly parented children."

    • "sexual favours are so common that kids are posting the latest escapades on Facebook after parties. I know many of the parents of these girls, and they are not, to my knowledge, neglecting their daughters, nor is there any lack of love in their homes."

      If they are not around to know that this is happening, then they are neglecting their children. Not to say they are bad people, but they are not doing good job as parents. I know a lot of good people who do terrible job as parents. Children need parents who are involved in their lives and they need discipline. I see far too many parents worried their children will hate them, and so allow them to do whatever they want. Communication is important, but sometimes parents need to do more than being available to talk. If they see their children engaged in self-destructive behaviour and talking doesn't resolve the issue, then the next step is limiting their access to internet, cellphone, setting curfews, or whatever it takes to protect them.

  60. This article irritates me to no end. Do teenagers have problems? Yes; it's all part of growing up, and certainly not new. But the idea that being a teenaged girl means I have a dangerously empty life is unacceptable to me. Adolescence has always been a time of trial and tribulation. Everyone gets through it eventually, though usually not without experimentation and a few bad choices along the way. The important thing is that they receive good parental guidance, and be encouraged to be full, vibrant people. Generalizations, and taking away the cellphone and computer won't help a teenager grow into a full adult. While limiting cellphone and internet useage is generally responsible, what good will that do if the teenager has nothing else in her life? Mr. Sax never discusses the ways teenaged girls can and do have fulfilling, dynamic lives.

    • Dr. Sax is talking about those popular girls who seem to be leading a very successful and vibrant life, but rotten from inside; not those nerdy ones who take part in drama and music classes, have jobs, and are responsible. After all, those popular girls have a life, which by the way, must be shared with the public through Facebook and MySpace.

    • Good for you Chelsey – your writing ability alone shows your intelligence is higher than that of the writer of this article. And I agree with you…we all face trials as teenage girls..they just differ depending on WHERE you live and WHEN. I was far from perfect as a teenage girl. I smoked and drank. I also graduated high schoo and went on to community college. I graduated my course in 1997 and by the next year was closing in on my career choice as police officer. I was a civilian communicator/dispatcher in the call centre answering 911 calls for help and dispatching officers via radio. I was 22. 4 years later I graduated police college and became a sworn constable for the same police force.

      No teenage girl has a life free of angst and stress – instead of writing articles critical of a lifestyle he has NO idea about, the author would serve the young female population better by getting a full picture and encouraging parents to teach coping skills and not panic when their teenage daughter seems to go off her rails.

  61. Sounds Like narcissistic personality disorder to me. Lots of aggresive confidence on the outside, little on the inside.

  62. One thing I'd like to point out is that not every book or article needs to be perfectly balanced. I don't think Sax is unaware of the many admirable achievements of teenage girls; he just wants to bring more attention to something he feels is overlooked – the more problematic trends in how many girls are developing psychologically.
    Many of the people on this board are indignantly responding, "But that's not me!" I believe you! But that doesn't mean that it's nobody – that, too, would be a generalization.

  63. Certainly long but definitely true !!!! After all, one of the famous shows among teen girls is "The Hills." After watching these kinds of shows, young girls want to have those kinds of sexually active, party-filled lives.

  64. This article hits the nail right on the head. Extremely well researched and honest. I wish there was more in the article on helping these girls to feel equal to their counterparts and to have self respect. Another great book that captures the promiscuity of girls today "Hooking Up."

  65. Exactly what I was thinking when I read this article.

    Boys are basically trained from birth to get sex by any means necessary. Girls are taught to withhold sex. Guess what? You've created a market whereby sexuality plays a huge determining factor in self worth.

    As always, it comes down to communication and education. Empower boys and girls with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. Outline the consequences of their actions and 99% of the time, a well informed teenager will make the right decision. And for those other times? That's life. People make stupid decisions.

    But then, all this is the responsibility of parents. And we all know what happens when you ask parents to actually parent their children… Blame society!

    • Touche. Bubble gum machine done hit the jackpot.

  66. You hit the nail on the head, Violet

  67. This is the norm where I live, then again where I live is full of human refuse, so that could be the reason.

  68. Well I have 4 girl's and I've listened to their horror stories of what their friends are doing and let me tell you, Dr. Sax, these comments are dead on! This is exactly what's going on. This is accurate and sadly too true of where our girls are today. They have turned into performing circus monkeys trying to please everyone. The only people that aren't happy are themselves. As a parent, it is a real feat and act of prayer to God to get your children to think on their own without the influence of others.

  69. This article speaks to the generational decline of and the increasing slope of the abdication of parental responsibility. To some measure sex education is to blame. I have read where this generation is the first of it's kind to have no moral absolutes. I don't know if this is true but I see overwhelming evidence in support. Here's a challenge, take a good ("distance lends perspective") at today's generation and imagine what the next crop is going to be like.

  70. As someone who was a teenage girl not that long ago I completely agree with the article. I think once you leabe behind high school and your life becomes more expanded and inclusive of more than the teenage girl bubble it will become obvious that many (and not all but certianly many) teenage girls use sex as a tool to show wha tthey can do to get attention, they drink to look popular and cool and basically indulge in self destructive behaviour in order to gain immediate attention and gratification. Has this always happened? Absolutely, however the extremes are getting more dangerous and the self destructions is becoming more alarming.

  71. I also completely agree that teenage girls tend to need something to obses over. Unfortunately, based on the students I have worked with, it seems "cooler" to obsess over sexually based elements in life rather than positive and progressive elements. I defiinitely see the advatages of getting girls more involved in sports and different areas of interest, but until some major changes happen in their parental involvement, I see many of them traveling down the doomed path.

  72. Setting rules and limits is not going to make your children hate you. It will make them resent you temporarily and I speak from experience. But in the long run, I am glad that I had a mother that said no every once in a while and dealt with the tantrum that followed because if she allowed me to behave as some of my friends were permitted to I would be finishing University right now, I would be like my former "party friends" – ignoring the children they accidently got pregnant with while holding down a part time job and spending all of their money on continung a life style of meaninglessness.
    And this is not the case for all teenage girls, but isn't it social responsibility to help the ones that it is happening to and trying to prevent others from making the same mistakes?

  73. Whenever he talks about boys he describes them as blithely content about a rather awful condition. Is that real contentment, or merely another variation of emptiness?

  74. Maybe I am wrong but a few days in Haiti or Thailand might cure a lot of this. Some of these people need some 'real' problems to appreciate just how vapid their lives are becoming. From what I have seen most of the young women I have met on the Prairies seem pretty well balanced.

  75. From Taber to Columbine, empty parents raise empty children.

    Most people in modern society have no souls.

  76. How cruel is this world that fetishizes little girls and then acts annoyed when little girls try to figure out how to be sexy. Teenage girls aren't vapid- they're just desperately introspective and still trying to get to the bottom of their own sexuality, which is an important and incredibly difficult phase to go through.

    To call this empty is trivializing a very big part of life. The evidence that girls go through this more brutally than boys may be true, but the arguments in this piece are anecdotal at best.

  77. As an 18 year old young man I find it very insulting and disturbing that boys are being portrayed so one dimensionally. Sax makes it seem that young males aren't only shallow, but that we're too unintelligent and emotionally numb to care. Somehow young women have gained a level of emotional sensitivity that their counterparts keep at bay by eating entire pizza's, playing video games and watching porn.
    While there are a large number of adolescent and teenage boys who are superficially content with their gaming abilities, social status, and body image defining their entire identity, I argue that there are still a significant amount of young males who are striving to define who they really are outside of all those facets. Boy's have just as much trouble trying to realize their identities as girls. If their are specific environments, issues, and situations in which girls are lacking control and a sense of self, then males should be facing equivalents in other aspects of their lives.
    If this is an issue of dangerously empty lives teenage girls, then it's an issue of all dangerously empty teenagers period.

  78. I don't drink, smoke, party etc. I'm a teenager and I don't hate my dad at all, I love him. However, i'm more strict than both my parents combined. I am a minority in that sense.

  79. I saw this on the cover of MacLean's and was interested because. . .well, it's good for my job to know these things. After reading it, I'm not so sure.

    The guy strikes me as a total alarmist douche who makes blanket statements based on information he hauls completely out of his a$$. "girls i've spoken with" =/= quantifiable data, asshole!

    Helicopter parents eat this stereotypical crap up, pay his bills, and he laughs all the way to the bank. It reeks of Dr. Phil. The issue here shouldn't be teenage girls. it should be helicopter parents who would rather be their kid's "cool" friend than their parent. The ones who are more concerned with their child's "cool"ness and popularity and appearance when they are young, than whether or not their child is developing a realistic sense of self and self-esteem. Little girls don't buy their own age-inappropriate clothes, they don't buy their own cell phones, they don't buy their own computers. . .

    But he doesn't take these parents to task because they are the very ones who will OMGZPANIC!!!111!! and buy his book.

    It'll be interesting to see his next "research" paper. I'm guessing he'll go after babies next. Keep an eye out for Maclean's June 2011 issue: "Inside the Dangerously Sexualized World of Babies

  80. I saw this on the cover of MacLean's and was interested because. . .well, it's good for my job to know these things. After reading it, I'm not so sure.

    The guy strikes me as a total alarmist douche who makes blanket statements based on information he hauls completely out of his ass. "girls i've spoken with" =/= quantifiable data, asshole!

    Helicopter parents eat this stereotypical shit up, pay his bills, and he laughs all the way to the bank. It reeks of Dr. Phil. The issue here shouldn't be teenage girls. it should be asshat helicopter parents who would rather be their kid's "cool" friend than their parent. The ones who are more concerned with their child's "cool"ness and popularity and appearance when they are young, than whether or not their child is developing a realistic sense of self and self-esteem. Little girls don't buy their own age-inappropriate clothes, they don't buy their own cell phones, they don't buy their own computers. . .

    But he doesn't take these parents to task because they are the very ones who will OMGZPANIC!!!111!! and buy his book.

    It'll be interesting to see his next "research" paper. I'm guessing he'll go after babies next. Keep an eye out for Maclean's June 2011 issue: "Inside the Dangerously Sexualized World of Babies

  81. Who cares! They look great in bikini's.

    • Only if they workout a bit and not have such gross skinny, scrawny, stick figure bodies.

  82. Here's a more honest headline for this cover story (!): "Author Writes New Book About Girls' Self-Esteem" and the sub-heading, "We interview him!"

  83. Just curious; Is it not striking to anyone that this so-called gender expert so ludicrislously downplays and disagrees that male anxiety and depression is nothing to worry about—how truly worrying! A so-called gender expert!

    Just look at the literature, he says, 1 in 4 girls binge drinking. Right, and how many boys binge drink, take drugs etc?

    With all this focus on girls and their anxiety and depression, I have one extremely crucial item to bring up that is often not addressed as it should be. There is a very good reason why women so consistently show higher rates of depression, use of anti-depressants compared to men:

    Suicide

  84. Boys overwhelmingly compared to girls kill themselves—often not making it to the point of, or seeing it as a viable option to, talk to someone about it, report it, or take drugs for it. They just kill themselves before they do. Adolescent boys kill themselves at 4 times the rate of girls—where's the discussion over this? Would such a high rate of suicide not cause some academics like Sax to maybe stop and think that since they kill themselves at such a higher rate that they might be, oh, I don't know, just a tad anxious, depressed, stressed etc? Where are the brains here? For every Phoebe Prince who kills herself there are four boys who kill themselves who face similar pressures stemming from their expectations as boys (only because they're boys and no one cares about their health—women's health is funded 13 times more than men's health—they don't get their pictures on magazines. It isn't a story if just another boy kills himself, where's the interest in that? It's so commonplace it's too boring a news item I suppose).

  85. Can you imagine if girls were killing themselves at the rate of boys and the outcry there would be (hell there's a cover story on girls because they are just cutting themselves)? About the unfair pressures girls face during adolescence, the high stress, etc. Well, is this not to be considered when the reality is that this is what's happening to boys? Higher rates of stress and depression correlate with higher rates of suicide. Any peer reviewed sociological/psychological/anthropological/medical journal will show you this, even though researchers directly asking boys how they feel may not.

    Which brings me to an extremely important factor not being considered here: boys are trained like monkeys from the day they're born to suppress admissions of all kinds of vulnerability (including depression, anxiety, etc). This TRAGIC socialization they are still forced to go through is going to be reflected when the surveys and such come around and merely ask them how they feel.

  86. I resent the tone of this guy Sax when he comes around to describing young males. I refuse to acknowledge someone as a “gender expert” when they give such an insulting and derisive summary of young men who are “goofballs” who eat a whole pizza supposedly without a second thought (well perhaps he eats a whole pizza because he feels too skinny, which is a body image issue for many boys), watch porn on the internet and so on. I hate to say it, but he sounds more like a stupid jerk than a gender expert. I also can't abide by his hasty dismissal of boys' anxiety: “Boy's aren't anxious” Answer: “No.” Aahhh, huh? Is it because, Dr. Sax, they just kill themselves before they get around to breaking through their programmed artificial toughness and invulnerability and actually admitting it?

    Do you really think you will gauge an accurate picture of teenage boys just by asking them are they feeling anxious, depressed?

  87. Of course most are going to say they feel fine, because that's exactly what they're trained and programmed to do, and girls select for boys who appear stronger while the boys that do express their more tender emotions are ostracized as “wimps”, “wussies”, or “fags”. So called experts like Sax should know this and account for it somehow, someway. And yes, with all that in mind also keep in mind that boys are performing worse (at least in the humanities side of things), going to university less, dropping out of school more, more likely to be forced into situations of violence (ie, assaulted), face the same social pressures in different guises that girls face—and barely anyone is treating it seriously, which is yet only another indication of just how dire the situation is: a bad situation and no one cares. What? Boys will be boys? You got to be kidding me.

    It is truly disheartening to see how unconscious a “gender expert” is to the true extent and depth of problems with boys and young men, not to mention how blind everyone here is to it as well.

  88. this is accurate IT IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION. as a 17 year old in a school of only 400 and a town of 26000 i see this more prevalent then ever. thre is businesss in my town known just for the fact that every kid working their has scars and cut on their arm and there are people even friends of mine that went from nobody to someone with 100 friends because they have began partying every weekend and not eating to save room for the alcohol. girls who have made bets to lose their virginity or take someone elses because being drunk and flirty makes you well known and having different people to hang out with and having 7 guys trying to get with you at a party iswhat matter most to people in my school. and as a senior i have seen the change in grade 8s from when i was in that age as there are some who proudly talk about the sex they had at a bush party on the weekend to me when i've met them only ten minutes ago. sex and drinking do raise social status and if the problems are this prevelant in a small town i can't imagine how obvious they are in big cities.

  89. C is butthurt because the Doctor hit home on every point, and she knows it. It bothers her that she's been so easily figured out – so easily unmasked as another photoshopped faker, like every other stupid teenage girl.

  90. …I love how the world is increasingly revolving around females.

    and to buddy before with the quote it goes like this;
    "if a key opens many locks then it is a master key,
    if i lock is oppened by many keys, its a shitty lock"

  91. Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls
    By. Leonard “sexist” Sax

    I DO NOT agree with anything written in this article, first off, teenage girls lives are not “dangerously empty”. Everything that has been said in this article is extremly exaggerated and most is not true! He starts off the Q & A with giving stats that more than 1 in 5 girls “is cutting herself and/or burning herself with matches” these stats were made up, this is not realistic in anyway, I attend highschool and am 100% positve that those stats are wrong. A more realistic number would be 1 in 20. He continues to say that girls “corner” guys into oral sex, not true! If anything it is the other way around. He says that he interviews many boys to believe this is true…but realisticaly what boy would say it isnt true.

  92. Saying that girls are more concerned about their weight than guys is true but in what way is that dangerous, whats wrong with eating healthy and going on a run every once in a while. There are girls that do have anerexia problems but not in the way or the amount that he mentions. Maybe he should write another article about “Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage boys” because this Q & A would be 10 pages long instead of 3, men have an obsession of working out, that is 100 times worse than girls, all they care about is working out, which also means there are taking some sort of suppliment to get them this buff.

  93. In the empty lives of teenage boys you could talk about their workout habits, there addiction to sex, their obsession to gaming, body image conflicts, immaturity and their own self esteem problems that are just as likely to be as bad as girls. Girls are into gossiping, guys are into gaming, its just the way it is, and the way its always been, but in no way is this “dangerous” its just natural. Sax is just sexist, because everyone out their has problems and there is and equal amout of boys as there is girls going through them, so for him to single out girls saying that they are dangerously empty is wrong, because everyone goes through problems. He talks about individuals that go through these problems mentioned and makes it seem as though it is ALL girls going through this (or a large amount of girls), when in fact they ALL don't. Guys are going through problems too and they are likely not the same issues that girls are going through, maybe he could mention both sides and also mention some good things on girls. His stats are made up and he has eggagerated everything to make it seem like teenage girls are a lost cause which is wrong.
    Leonard is an ASS

  94. I, unlike the majority of teens posting here, agree almost completely with Dr. Sax. I think this is because I have seen firsthand the cutting, binge drinking and anorexia teen girls are facing today. Perhaps the reason so many teens are denying this is because they refuse to see the truth about our generation.

    As to all the comments regarding it being the parents' fault, I disagree to an extent. I knew a girl who had the nicest parents one could ever hope for, and she still cut herself. Cutting is a sign of depression, and depression cannot necessarily always be blamed on the people around you. However, it CAN be a factor, and this is why I condone 'harsh parenting'. A parent who chooses to yell at their child instead of talking to them and getting to the root of the problem should not be a parent in the first place.

    Yes, this doctor is getting his research from numbers and statistics, but he is also interviewing teenage girls, and taking that into account. Teen girls today face tremendous pressure and stress, and we should not be so quick to dismiss his claims.

  95. Why would girls want to still be anorexic? With the increase in women's fitness and muscle magazines, website, products, and female celbrities sporting chiseled biceps and shoulders, more girls are working out their muscles than ever before, hardly wanting to looks skinny.

    I think males need to become a little bit more selective than choosing the scrawnly, unattractive skinny girls with no shape or curve (whether more fatty or more muscular) to their bodies.

    So chin up everyone! Anorexia is going to be a thing of the past as more women choose some muscle instead of some skin and bone

  96. Glad that you wrote this article. I am a teacher who has shared this article with many others in the field. This is what the girls battle….in grade 7 and 8. I kid you not. I shared this article with a friend of mine who had just learned that the daughter whom she thought had great self esteem, star athlete (best year yet this year) had been cutting herself. Over Christmas holidays I managed to read "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of entitlement," by Jean Twenge who is quoted in this article. That book really helped me understand the kids I teach and the parents in todays culture who continue to agree with allowing grade 2 students unsupervised access to the Internet and absolutely no parent feedback to help them re-frame what they see so that they do not become the next casualties in our thoughtless media. Girls signing up with professional photographers for boudoir shots for facebook…and parents allowing them. It's ridiculous. I'd rather see them enjoy being a girl rather than a degraded version of womanhood. Looking forward to more insights from these authors.

  97. Watch the movie Mean Girls. It`s just a movie, but it comes pretty close to the reality of girls in today`s society.

  98. The next time Maclean's publishes an article like this (and this is one of many before it) I would like to see statistics, facts, and research that has been proven across the board.

    The generalizations made in this article are incrediblely exaggerated and nothing short of embarrassing for the man interviewed and the author. Any person that has spent a good deal of time around teenagers today will tell you that yes, although all of this does happen, it happens to a select few individuals who struggle with low self esteem, stress, anixety, and possiblely a mental disorders.

    As for it just happening with teenage girls, that is nothing short of a complete farce. Teenage boys binge drink, cut, have low self esteem, and sleep around as well- however they tend to be less willing to share their feelings.