Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New National Report Reveals the High Price of Low Self-Esteem

/PRNewswire/ -- Self-esteem has become a national crisis in this country. The majority of girls (seven in ten) feel they do not measure up in some way including their looks, performance in school and relationships. Most disturbing is that girls with low self-esteem are engaging in harmful and destructive behavior that can leave a lasting imprint on their lives. These new findings come from Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem(1), conducted with girls between eight and 17 and commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. In response, the Dove(R) brand is launching its largest effort yet to bring self-esteem programming to girls across the country and to encourage everyone to make a difference in the lives of girls. This new initiative is part of the Dove Self-Esteem Fund goal to reach 5 million girls globally by 2010 with self-esteem programming.

Destructive Behaviors

An alarming number of girls are turning to destructive action when feeling insecure, and girls with low self-esteem are three times more likely to participate in dangerous behaviors during these times.

-- 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative and potentially harmful activities, such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking or drinking, when feeling badly about themselves-compared with 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem.

-- 61 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem admit to talking badly about themselves (Compared to 15 percent of girls with high self-esteem)

-- 25 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem resort to injuring themselves on purpose or cutting when feeling badly about themselves (Compared to 4 percent of girls with high self-esteem)

-- 25 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem practice disordered eating, such as starving themselves, refusing to eat, or over-eating and throwing up, when feeling badly about themselves (Compared to 7 percent of girls with high self-esteem)

"Low self-esteem among girls and young women has reached a crisis level," said Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a psychologist and self-esteem expert who collaborated on Real Girls, Real Pressure. "The new report from Dove confirms the importance of healthy self-esteem and the dangerous consequences that can arise when hang-ups about looks, academics and popularity erode a girl's sense of self-worth and self-acceptance."

Self-Esteem Tipping Point

Girls are also craving better communication with adult figures as they struggle with challenges in their lives. The top wish among girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, including more frequent and more open conversations, as well as discussions about what is happening in her life. However, as girls enter their teenage years there is a significant loss of trust and communication with adults, particularly when they are feeling badly about themselves.

-- 67 percent of girls ages 13 - 17 turn to their mother as a resource when feeling badly about themselves compared to 91 percent of girls ages 8 - 12

-- Only 27 percent of girls ages 13 - 17 will turn to their father for help when feeling badly about themselves compared to 54 percent of girls ages 8 - 12. Interestingly, at 16, girls become more likely to seek support from male peers than from their own dads.

"We cannot underestimate just how vital the words and actions of parents are in fostering positive self-esteem in girls. However, it can be challenging because adolescence is not typically a time when girls are reaching out to their parents and speaking candidly," said self-esteem expert Jess Weiner, a best-selling author and the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. "The good news is that if parents and other role models are willing to create a steady conversation of encouragement, honesty and openness it can definitely help girls gain confidence and reach their full potential."

Making a Difference

This fall, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund is extending its outreach in an effort to tackle the self-esteem crisis among girls. As part of its largest efforts to date, Dove is continuing to support uniquely ME!, a long-term partnership with the Girls Scouts of the USA that helps build confidence in girls 8 - 17 with after school programs, self-esteem building events and educational resources. The brand is also embarking on a new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America to conduct educational workshops in 20 cities across the country for both girls and the adults who influence them.

The Dove Self-Esteem Workshops for girls have been developed to empower them and promote new ways of thinking about beauty, body image and self-esteem. Separate "Train the Trainer" workshops will also be held in each city for mentors and educators to provide them with the skills and information they need to host workshops with girls in their own organizations.

"We know that if you spend time giving girls new ways to think about beauty, body image and self-esteem it can make a real difference," said Kathy O'Brien, Dove marketing director. "This program has been developed to provide the resources necessary to create positive change and ensure the next generation of young women grows up feeling good about themselves and appreciating their own unique beauty."

To ensure everyone has access to self-esteem resources, Dove has developed a range of powerful and engaging self-esteem online tools, workbooks and facilitator training guides for girls, moms and mentors that can be downloaded for free on the Dove Web site. To learn more visit

About Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem

Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem was conducted nationally online among 1,029 girls 8 - 17, and is representative of the U.S. based on census indicators (region, ethnicity and parental education). An additional 3,344 girls 8 - 17 were surveyed in a targeted study that was conducted in 20 major U.S. cities representative of each DMA based on ethnicity and parental education. The research was conducted by StrategyOne, an applied research consulting firm, in collaboration with Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD.

Methodology: Interviews averaged 15 minutes and were conducted between May 6 and May 28, 2008 using the online field services of ResearchNow.

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