In many ways, today is the best time in history to be a girl: Opportunities for a girl’s success are as unlimited as her dreams. Yet an alarm is sounding, revealing a disturbing portrait of the stresses affecting girls of all ages. Societal expectations, cultural trends, and conflicting messages are creating what psychologist and researcher Stephen Hinshaw calls “the Triple Bind.” Girls are now expected to excel at “girl skills,” achieve “boy goals,” and be models of female perfection, 100 percent of the time. The Triple Bind is putting more and more girls at risk for aggression, eating disorders, depression, and even suicide.
Dr. Hinshaw’s fascinating and groundbreaking book shows concerned parents how to listen, learn, and help girls unlock the shackles of the Triple Bind. The Triple Bind discusses many key topics, including
• Today’s trap: how internal conflict can turn self-expression into self-destruction
• Nature versus nurture: genes, hormones, and the role of biology in confronting the Triple Bind
• Life in the pressure cooker: overscheduled, overtaxed lives, and how the pressure to excel at everything sets girls up for crisis
• When virtue is its own punishment: how traditionally feminine qualities like empathy, self-awareness, and verbal ability can put girls at risk for anxiety, depression, and other disorders
• Getting all Pussycat Dolled up: the oversexualization of little girls, preteens, and teenagers
• The wired child: how cyberculture exacerbates the Triple Bind
• Girls who hit: the reasons girls are channeling pressure into violence
• The plight of normal girls: hidden aspects of the Triple Bind crisis that don’t show up in statistics
Combining moving personal stories about girls and their families with extensive research into genetic risk, vulnerability, and cultural influence, Dr. Hinshaw provides strategies and tools for parents who want to empower their daughters to deal in healthy ways with today’s pressures. Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Stephen Hinshaw
It’s arguably the best time in history to be a teenage girl. Females outnumber males in terms of college admissions and are essentially tied in terms of medical and law school admissions. Girls can and do receive athletic scholarships. Women are ascending in politics, science, and business in ways that were undreamed of a generation or two ago.
But there’s a hidden problem, and a growing one. Compared to the 1990s, and especially to the 1970s and 1980s, teen girls are increasingly at risk for a number of serious mental health problems: depression (with ever-earlier ages at which depression emerges), suicide and cutting (with sharp increases in recent years), binge eating (with record numbers now seen), and even aggression (with male rates down in recent years with female rates up).
The Triple Bind boldly addresses the issues behind these phenomena. Certainly, the mental health problems under consideration have biological and even genetic risks. But genes have not changed suddenly, within the span of a few years. There must be something about the current social climate that is pushing the envelope, uncovering girls’ vulnerabilities.
What could this “something” be? In our view today’s girls have unique pressures: (1) to be nurturing and supportive (the traditional role for girls); (2) to be competitive and “on top” (with the new opportunities girls have); and (3) to make it all seem effortless and natural, in a ultra-sexualized and ultra-feminized way, with no real alternatives to develop a unique identity. It is this third part of the triple bind that gives girls no way out--with the 24/7 world of the cyber-culture making every move and every “look” visible to the outside world... and with media images of highly sexualized teens visible nearly everywhere.
Through careful summaries of research and through vivid case examples, this analysis covers the many ways in which the triple bind rears its head. At the same time, we make the point that finding ways for our daughters to connect with a wider world of commitment and meaning may be the optimal solution to this dangerous, crucial, triple-bind problem.
Hinshaw, chair of UC-Berkeleys psychology department and an authority on childhood ADHD, enters a cultural minefield: why do todays teenage girls, despite enormous opportunities, seem crippled by increased rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, violence and suicide? Hinshaws sweeping diagnosis is the triple bind, or societys expectation that young women possess traditionally feminine attributes such as empathy and selflessness, but also succeed in typically masculine arenas such as competitive sports and cutthroat career paths, and finally, generally conform to a narrow, unrealistic set of standards that allows for no alternative. Hinshaw identifies academic pressures, sexed-up pop culture, Internet voyeurism and girl-on-girl bullying as sources of overwhelming stress and conflicting ideals for girls. Yet his study suffers from an identity crisis of its own: while Hinshaw shines in conversations with troubled young girls, he plays the role of cultural critic rather than psychologist in offering elaborate analyses of TV shows such as Ugly Betty
and Greys Anatomy
while providing little hard evidence—or testimonies from girls themselves—on how these shows affect girls. Hinshaw neglects his strengths and, in turn, offers little in the way of solutions. (Feb. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.