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As Relationships Suffer, So Too Does A Teen Girl’s Mental Health

Almost anyone will tell you that relationship problems are just part of the teen years. Making up, breaking up, cheating, flirting, it all goes with those teen years, and while it’s almost painful to watch from the outside, it may be far more painful to the involved teenage girl according to a new study. Researcher Brian Soller looked at data from 5,300 high school students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. What he found was that relationship problems can lead to very big issues for mental health in teen girls.

A Serious Situation

Study author Brian Soller suggested as soon as a relationship diverges from what the girl imagines, the risk of severe depression increases, as do thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts. The same is not true of boys.

Looking at the available data, Soller compared how adolescents described their perfect relationship in an interview at the outset to how their actual relationships played out after that interview and the mental health consequences involved. Respondents were interviewed and given a number of cards that described how a relationship progressed. Everything from hand holding to kissing to sex were included on the cards. Respondents indicated the order of events they thought might occur, and a year later, the exercise was repeated, but they were asked about an actual relationship. They were asked how the events progressed within a real relationship.

The findings were staggering. Girls build their entire identities around a relationship, and the outcome of a relationship is strongly related to how they feel about themselves, according to Soller. Once the relationships move from what they envisioned into different territory entirely, it proves very damaging emotionally.

The best thing to do, Soller suggested, was help parents and educators learn how to teach teen girls to construct identities that are not tied to romantic involvement.

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