Young girls’ mental health is at risk because of pressure to wear adult clothes and engage in early sexual activity, a new report says.
The Mental Health Foundation and Girlguiding UK collected responses from girls aged between ten and 15 on issues surrounding mental health and well-being.
They concluded that “premature sexualisation and pressure to grow up too quickly” is affecting young girls’ mental health.
“Sexual advances from boys, pressure to wear clothes that make them look too old and magazines and websites directly targeting younger girls to lose weight or consider plastic surgery were identified as taking a particular toll,” the report says.
Family breakdown was another key factor: “Girls described the pressures of feeling caught up in rows and experiencing conflicting loyalties as parents compete for attention and affection.”
Dr Andrew McCulloch, the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Somewhere, somehow, our society has taken a wrong turn in our approach to children and young people.
“Young women face particular pressures. This report provides evidence of the impact of real and perceived pressures around sexual behaviour, physical appearance and material values.
“We are forcing our young people to grow up too quickly and not giving them the spaces and experiences they require to be safe and confident. We are creating a generation under stress.
“This is our responsibility as adults and adult society to put right.”