Girls in their tween years struggle especially

young African-American girl looking down, leaning on a desk on her elbowsChildren and adolescents experienced high levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts during the recent pandemic. Children and adolescents’ mental health has been declared a national emergency by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It was at least a decade before the pandemic that psychologists such as myself began noticing serious declines in mental health in youth.


A number of factors could be contributing to this problem, including overparenting, the use of screens and social media, academic and sports competition among equals, political acrimony, social injustice, climate change, gun violence, and virtual learning. We may be able to attribute the long-term trend of youth suicide to certain demographic groups, but when we lump them together, this becomes obscured.


Girl’s disadvantages are greater


I have observed in my practice and in the practice of my colleagues that tween girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are more susceptible to problems than in the past. It has historically been considered the toughest time for girls in middle school. A perfect storm has created for girls in middle school due to recent societal and biological trends.


According to a recent study, British girls aged ten to fifteen faced more behavioral difficulties and life dissatisfaction during the pandemic. Canadian and Australian girls were also reported to suffer from greater anxiety and depression during the same period.


In the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2010 and 2020, one or more major depressive episodes were experienced by 25% of 12-17-year-old girls. For boys, the increase ranged from 5 to 9 percent.


Between 2010 and 2014, self-harm emergency room visits for girls ages 10 to 14 more than doubled, while they remained relatively unchanged for other demographic groups.


As a result, risk factors accumulate


In terms of anxiety and depression, studies have shown that girls and boys are not much different at first. A significant increase in depression and anxiety is observed among girls in middle school, and this pattern persists into adulthood. During this critical time, why are girls particularly vulnerable?