about Respect Rx

RESPECT co-author, Courtney Macavinta, blogs for girls and women about how to build your self-respect and spread respect for all! At The Respect Institute she teaches people of all ages how to integrate The Respect Basics into their lives, work and advocacy. More about About Courtney

Join the Newsletter

latest posts deal with it reading list

Girl Stats + Studies

Girl Stats + Studies

Factoids: Girl Statistics & Studies

What's REALLY Going On With Girls?

I've finally compiled data from recent studies focused on girls or those mentioned on Respect Rx and in RESPECT. I'll update this list of statistics frequently. If you know of a study that's not mentioned here, you can submit the info by COMMENTING below and please include a link to the source.

When you look at all these stats together it can seem like the girl world is totally out of control. Yes, some of these stats are alarming (though not surprising) to me (especially the ones about violence and body image). Others, I feel could be used against girls unfairly--like the some of the sex stats.

Much of what's printed here, though, also reflects what girls tell me worries them about girl culture. I normally don't post stats without some sort of Rx (see the rest of this site for that!). At the most, I hope these stats will be helpful to those who are building a case, programs or awareness to provide more relevant support and resources for girls. For girls, I hope when you read this stuff that you will be inspired to take action if you seem something going down that you think is keeping girls down. In other words, I hope this information empowers girls and their advocates to create positive social change and spread respect for all.

Who's studying teen girls (a short list):
American Association of University Women
Girls Inc.
Harris Interactive
Kaiser Family Foundation
Pew Internet & American Life Project
U.C. Davis
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance

abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault

National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women fact sheet:
Minors account for 67% of all sexual assaults reported in the U.S. (Department of Justice, 2000)

1.8 million of the 22.3 adolescents ages 12-17 in the U.S. have been victims of serous sexual assault (DOJ, 1997)

8.8 million children in the U.S. witness a crime in their home each year. (DOJ, 1997)

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), (2002)
58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24.

California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) report, 2004:
50% of the reported date rapes occur among teenagers.

Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) studies for Liz Claiborne Inc., Technology & Teen Dating Abuse Survey 2007 & Teen Dating Abuse Survey, 2006
Teens surveyed range in age from 13-18. Key findings:
57% of U.S. teens have had a friend in an abusive relationship

71% of teens regard boyfriends/girlfriends spreading rumors about them on cell phones and social networking sites as a serious problem.

1 in 4 teens in a relationship (25%) say they have been called names, harassed, or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting.

68% of teens say boyfriends/girlfriends sharing private or embarrassing pictures/videos on cell phones and computers is a serious problem.

1 in 3teens (30%) say they are text messaged 10, 20, 30 times an hour by a partner inquiring where they are, what they're doing, or who they're with.

82% of parents whose teens were emailed or texted 30 times per hour were unaware this was happening.

75% of parents were unaware that their teen had been physically hurt or bruised by their partner.

69% of parents were unaware that their teen was pressured by their partner to perform oral sex.

58% of parents were unaware that their teen had been hit, slapped, pushed, punched, kicked or choked by their partner.

1 in 2 teens who have been in a serious relationships say they've gone against their beliefs in order to please their partner

1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they've been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner

1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been pressured to only spend time with their partner

1 in 3 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 say sex is expected for people their age if they're in a relationship; half of teen girls who have experienced sexual pressure report they are afraid the relationship would break up if they did not give in

Nearly 1 in 4 girls who have been in a relationship (23%) reported going further sexually than they wanted as a result of pressure

1 in 5 teens who have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner

alcohol & drugs

Columbia University's The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse study, 2006:
1/3 of all teens, and nearly 1/2 of 17-year olds, go to house parties where parents are present and teens are drinking, smoking marijuana, or using cocaine, Ecstasy or prescription drugs.

80% of parents surveyed by Columbia don’t think drugs and alcohol are on tap are parties their teens attend.

99% of parents say they would not be willing to serve alcohol at their teen’s party, but 28% of teen partygoers have been at parties at a home where parents were present and teens were drinking alcohol.

Only 12% of parents see drugs as their teen’s greatest concern. Twice as many teens (27%) say drugs are their greatest concern.

body image

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (Unilever) "Beyond Stereotypes: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs" (2006) and "Real Truth About Beauty" (2005) global studies:
92% of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with body weight ranking the highest.

75% of teenage girls felt 'depressed, guilty and shameful' after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.

70% of girls ages 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities such as attending school, going to the doctor, or even giving their opinion "due to feeling badly about one’s looks."

61% of all women and 69 % of girls (15 to 17) feel that their mother has had a positive influence on their feelings about themselves and their beauty.

Nearly 1/4 would consider undergoing plastic surgery.

Only 2% of women describe themselves as “beautiful”

Not only do women agree that happiness is the primary element making a woman beautiful, but they strongly agree that they themselves feel most beautiful when they are happy and fulfilled in their lives (86%). Women want younger generations of girls and women to inherit this broader concept of beauty, with 82% strongly agreeing that, “If I had a daughter, I would want her to feel beautiful, even if she was not physically attractive.”

While only 19% of teenage girls are "overweight," 67% think they "need to lose weight" (UK Teen Body Image Survey, January 2004)

National Association for Self-Esteem:
90% of eating disorders are found in girls

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale study, 2006:
4,000 respondents in varying numbers between 15% and 30% also said they would rather walk away from their marriage, give up the possibility of having children, be depressed, or become alcoholic rather than be obese. 18% would rather give up 10 years of their lives than be obese.

5% and 4%, respectively, said they would rather lose a limb or be blind than be overweight.

Tipping The Scales Of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination by Sandra Solovay, 2000 (*will add more detailed citation when I track down the actual study.)
A majority of 5-year-olds would rather lose an arm than be fat.*

Girl Scouts USA study, 2006:
For most girls, being healthy has more to do with appearing "normal" and feeling accepted than maintaining good diet and exercise habits.

On one hand girls are told to be happy the way they are, and on the other hand, they are given the message that being "overweight" is unhealthy and unattractive.

The more physically active girls are, the greater their self-esteem and the more satisfied they are with their weight, regardless of how much they weigh.

Yet 40% of girls ages 11-17 say they do not play sports because they do not feel skilled or competent and 23% do not think their bodies look good.

Girls’ view physical and emotional health as closely connected. For example, more than 1/3 of girls ages 11–17 reported eating more when they are “stressed out” and overweight girls are more than twice as likely as girls who are not overweight to report eating more in times of stress.

More than 60% of teenage girls skip breakfast at least once a week and nearly 20% skip it every day.

A mother’s weight, body image, attitude, and health habits are strong indicators of whether her daughter is overweight, satisfied with her body, and physically active. Girls look to their mothers for advice on healthy living. A daughter’s dissatisfaction with her weight is greater if her mother is also dissatisfied with her own weight, in spite of how much a daughter actually weighs.


Girls Inc., The Supergirl Dilemma: Girls Grapple with the Mounting Pressure of Expectations, 2006:
74% of girls say they are under pressure to please everyone

3 out of 4 girls say they feel pressure to be "super girls"

74% say they often feel stressed

1 in 5 high school girls say they do not know three adults to whom to turn if they have a problem.

media, marketing & teen consumer spending

Facts on marketing children

The Teen Media Juggling Act: The Implications of Media Multitasking Among American Youth

Girls and Media

iGR, Teen Mobile Phone Ownership Mounts report, 2007
Over half of 12-to-14-year-olds now have their own mobile phones, and a "significant percentage" of children younger than 10 do as well, according to iGR's "Tweens" report.

The study also found that teens ages 15 and older were even more likely to have their own mobile phones.

There will be 26 million tweens in 2009, iGR forecasts that 4 million will be using their own phones. But of the 11.44 million 10-12 year olds in 2009, 3.57 million will have cell phones.

Cone Millennial Cause Study, 2006
83% of Millennials (those born between 1979 - 2001) will trust a company more if it is socially responsible

This civic-minded generation, 78 million strong, not only believes it is their responsibility to make the world a better place, they (78%) believe that companies have a responsibility to join them in this effort. Millennials say they are prepared to reward or punish a company based on its commitment to social causes.

Harris Interactive study, 2006
Annually, adolescents influence $175 billion and personally spend $51 billion

race & ethnicity

Study published in Child Development and supported by National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), 2006:
When asked to check a box for “What is your race?” multi-racial teens often change categories as they transition to young adulthood.

California Dreamers, New America Media, 2006
Highlights from a survey of 600 16- to 22-year-olds 59 percent of whom are youth of color and 49 percent immigrants or the children of immigrants.


Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study, 2006
A new, long-term study of self-esteem in adolescents and young adults shows that race and body mass are important predictors of self-esteem in adolescent women. Self-worth is greater in black women after age 11 and that self-esteem is lower in both black and white women with the highest body mass indices. "Previous studies from other authors have noted the impact of self-esteem on the vulnerability of adolescent women to risky behaviors," says Dr. Biro. "However, building self-esteem could improve outcomes, as suggested by a community-based study that notes lower rates of violent behaviors in those who underwent self-esteem building."

UC Davis psychologist Richard Robins studied 350,000 participants, 2002:
Self-esteem across a life span can be like riding a roller coaster, starting with an inflated sense of self-approval in late childhood, dropping precipitously in adolescence and then rising steadily through adulthood only to plummet to the lowest point in late old age, according to a new study in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Women, in general, had lower self-esteem than men, although both genders have identical high levels between the ages of 9 and 12. "During adolescence, girls' self-esteem dropped about twice as much as boys'," Robins says.

sexual behavior, STDs/STIs & teen pregnancy

1 in 4 teen girls has an STD
study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2008

Wellesley Centers for Women study, "Sports as Protective of Girls' High-Risk Sexual Behavior," 2005
Past research has shown that girls involved with sports in high school are less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors such as high numbers of partners, inconsistent or no use of birth control, or engaging in sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The decrease in girls’ participation in risky sexual behavior associated with sports involvement is party due to a delay in sexual initiation and party to social-psychological dynamics, such as enhanced self-confidence, a less stereotypically feminine gender role identity, and/or a stronger desire to avoid teenage pregnancy.

Indiana University School of Medicine Adolescent Medicine study, 2006.
Teen girls reported they were twice as likely to have sex in the evenings as after school. (That said, the study followed just 106 girls between the ages of 14 and 18.)

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:
Around 30% of teens said their first sexual experience occurred during school hours or between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Most have sex in their home or at a friend's house.

3 in 10 girls become pregnant as a teen

Center for Disease Control and National Center for Health Statistics 2005-2006:
47 % of high school students said they'd had sexual intercourse (about the same as last year)

63 % said they used condoms

In 1991, 54 % they'd had sex and, 46 % used condoms

More than half of U.S. teens ages 15-17 have had oral sex, with 70% of those ages 18-19 having had oral sex. Only 9% reported using a condom during oral sex.

Yale and Columbia universities that tracked 20,000 youth for 8-years:
Half of all new HIV infections in the United States still occur in people who are under 25-years-old.

And teenagers who take "virginity pledges" are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge.

Some teens (3.5% out of 13,000--boys and girls) also say they have exchanged sex for money or drugs.

3 million teens become infected with one or more STDs each year.

UC San Francisco study, 2005
Girls who have significant symptoms of depression as teens are 86% more likely than their peers to become victims of abuse from a boyfriend or husband as young women.

Pacific Institute for Research study, 2005
Girls who experimented with drugs and sex were 2 to 3 times more likely to become depressed than those who abstained.

British researchers, 2006
Teens might be using condoms but many don't know how to use them correctly.

Indiana University Medical Center study, 2006:
279 teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were interviewed about their relationships and sex.

41% said that, on at least one occasion, they had sex when they didn't want to.

10% said that their boyfriends forced them to have sex. 38% of those girls also admitted to having unwanted sex because they were afraid that their boyfriend would be angry if they said no.

Child Trends, Sexual Activity Among U.S. Teens, 2006 8-years :
In 2002, 8 out of 10 female teenagers had a partner who was at least one year older than they were at first sexual intercourse (81%), compared with just under one-half of males (46%).

A substantial minority of teenagers, particularly white teenagers, have never had sexual intercourse but have had oral sex, which places them at risk of STIs. Specifically, 1 in 6 teenagers aged 15-17 has not engaged in sexual intercourse, but has given or received oral sex, and very few of these teenagers have used a condom.

Kaiser Family Foundation, National Survey of Teens on HIV/AIDS, 2000
Young women and minority teens have been particularly hard hit by HIV/AIDS: Teen girls account for 58% of new AIDS cases reported among young people ages 13-19.

Though African American and Latino teens account for just 15% of all U,S. teens, they account for most of new AIDS cases among teens at 60% and 24% respectively.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 1,017 black and white teens when they were 12 to 14 years old
Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 14 who use media with high sexual content are up to 2.2 times more likely to have sex by the time they are 16 than those who use less such media.

sexual harassment & bullying

American Academy of University Women, 2002:
8 out of 10 students say they have experience some form of sexual harassment at school.

Girls are harassed more often than boys with 83% saying they have endured sexual comments—including homophobic remarks—teasing, touching or rumors.

social change

Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Youth Report To America, a national survey of 46,000 young people ages 13 to 18, 2006:
Only 1 in 3 teens polled (33%) believe that knowledge is a key to success

74% think college is necessary to meet their career goals.

More than 57% of all respondents say their children will have more challenges than they have.

When asked "What things can make life better for future generations?" almost 40% said finishing school.
22% said being involved in their communities. 13% said pushing for equal opportunities for everyone.