The Resilience Divide: New Data Shows Teen Girls Less Resilient Than Boys

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Resilience is one of the most important qualities for young people to thrive in a complex, changing world. And recent research indicates that teen girls are trailing boys in this critical factor for future success.

In a groundbreaking study conducted by international student exchange organization Educatius, the Global Youth Resilience Index has unveiled notable gender differences in the resilience of teenagers across nine countries, including the USA, China, Sweden, Brazil, Vietnam, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain.

This comprehensive survey, involving over 4,000 adolescents aged 16-20, sheds light on the critical value of resilience – the capacity to recover from adversity and adapt positively to challenging circumstances – and its correlation with various factors such as family, school, peers, community connections, and individual psychological characteristics.

Boys report higher levels of resilience than girls on most factors

Notably, the study reveals significant gender differences in resilience factors, with boys generally scoring higher in resilience-related factors across all surveyed countries.

The largest discrepancies between genders were observed in “negative cognition” and “social skills,” particularly pronounced in Sweden, Italy, Germany, Brazil, and the USA, where boys tend to be less prone to negative cognition and indicate better social skills than girls.

Negative cognition refers to self-critical thoughts and beliefs that individuals have about themselves or others, which can negatively impact their emotional state and behavior. These thoughts often revolve around themes of inadequacy, vulnerability, and self-worth, manifesting in beliefs like “I am not good enough.”

For instance, 52% of girls surveyed agreed with the statement: “When things go wrong, I tend to give myself a hard time,” versus 44% of boys.

Social skills in the context of this research refer to the abilities that enable teens to interact effectively – including the ability to express opinions within a group, communicate feelings and thoughts to others, engage in conversations with peers, share personal thoughts, and make important decisions.

For instance, 51% of girls surveyed agreed with the statement “I find it hard to make important decisions,” versus 44% of boys.

Social media use and resilience

The Global Youth Resilience Index also explores the nuanced relationship between social media usage and resilience, with excessive use, especially at night, correlating with lower resilience factors. Interestingly, females report spending more time on social media than males (on average, 2.1 hours more per week), highlighting the importance of balanced social media usage in fostering resilience.

The findings also reveal that boys are more likely to engage in sports and exercise, while girls are inclined towards healthy eating, sleeping adequately, and practicing musical instruments.

Empowering the next generation of young women

As the world commemorates International Women’s Day on March 8, these findings intersect with the global dialogue on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The gender discrepancies in resilience in global youth underscore the urgent need to support young girls in developing resilience, a critical value for thriving in a fast-changing world and future.

There is a pressing call to action for educators, policymakers, parents, and communities worldwide to investigate these discrepancies and develop targeted strategies to support the resilience of young girls. By examining and addressing the gender differences in resilience, we can empower the next generation of young women to overcome adversity and thrive in an ever-evolving global landscape.

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