Girls' mental health suffers when romances play out differently than they imagined
Researchers have revealed that adolescent girls' risk of severe depression, thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempt increase after their relationships unfold differently than what they imagined.
The study used data on more than 5,300 high school students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and examined the mental health consequences of mismatches between adolescents' ideal and actual relationships.
In the initial interview, researchers provided adolescents with a number of cards describing events that often occur within relationships, including everything from hand holding and kissing to sex, Study author Brian Soller, an assistant professor of sociology and a senior fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico said. Respondents kept cards describing events they would engage in within an ideal relationship, and then indicated the order in which the events would occur.
Roughly a year later, the respondents repeated the exercise, only this time they indicated which events took place within their relationship, and then provided the order in which the events transpired. During both interviews, researchers asked participants about their mental health.
As for why relationship inauthenticity increased the risk of mental health problems for girls, but not for boys, Soller said, "Romantic relationships are particularly important components of girls' identities and are, therefore, strongly related to how they feel about themselves — good or bad. As a result, relationships that diverge from what girls envision for themselves are especially damaging to their emotional well-being."
On the other hand, Soller said relationships are not as important to boys' identities.
The study has been published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
(Posted on 16-04-2014)