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Teenage Social Pressures and Depression: What You Need to Know (page 2)

Teenage Social Pressures and Depression: What You Need to Know

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Updated on Dec 23, 2009

Silver-Stock, who founded Girls With Dreams, an online learning community for adolescent girls to learn from and share with one another in a supportive environment, agrees that parents can be most effective by knowing their children well and paying attention—by being good detectives, she says. “Girls especially try to put on this act of having it all together, and sometimes they might not even realize they’re depressed,” Silver-Stock cautions.  

Carr-Gregg explains that in addition to social pressure and hormones, poor interpersonal skills coupled with negative thought processes can create difficulties for adolescents negotiating changing relationships with peers and families. Tweens and teens are searching for autonomy while at the same time trying to fit in—and it can be challenging to manage these tasks while simultaneously trying to succeed in a competitive academic and social environment.

The bottom line is that children are pressured by both peers and adults to grow up faster than they should. Why? Carr-Gregg points to driving factors such as the following: early puberty and sexualization, a higher incidence of parental separation, a decline in ritual (both tradition and spirituality), the 24/7 nature of peer communication, bullying, and disconnected communities.

“My clients are under pressure to have a great body, be very fit, to binge drink, have multiple sexual partners, and compete academically both at school and at university,” Carr-Gregg says.

How to Help
  • Be an expert on your child. Watch for changes in behavior
  • Make your home a safe place to share feelings and concerns
  • Recognize and applaud your adolescent’s strengths

Carr-Gregg and Silver-Stock both agree that extracurricular activities, or “islands of competence,” can serve as protective factors against depression. According to Carr-Gregg, adolescents who have identified islands of competence, such as art, music, sports, dance, or drama, seem to do better than adolescents without.

“Activities can really help to build self-esteem and confidence and give kids another peer network,” Silver-Stock says.

Identifying areas in which adolescents have competence also helps with identity formation, and it gives structure, meaning, and purpose to children’s lives, Carr-Gregg says.

Experts caution, however, not to overextend adolescents with too many extracurricular activities. There is a point at which these activities leave little room for downtime and reflection and only serve as an additional pressure.

It can be challenging to determine whether a teenager’s behavior is worthy of worry. If you are concerned about your teenager’s mental or emotional health, talk to your family doctor.

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