Though Stress Is The Teenagers’ Lot, They Manage To Have Big Ambitions

Thank goodness for avarice. It gives teenage girls and boys something in common. A survey by Mediamark Research Inc. found large gender gaps when questioning teens about their hopes and anxieties. On their desire for money, though, boys and girls were in substantial agreement. Asked to pick their “goals for the future” from a long list of possibilities, 78 percent of boys and 73 percent of girls chose “make a lot of money.” There was a similar degree of agreement in their wish to “have a successful career” (80 percent of boys and 85 percent of girls). But they’ll achieve that success in different ways, if they have their druthers. Boys were much more likely than girls to say they want to go into the “corporate world” (20 percent vs. 12 percent). And, somewhat surprisingly, boys were also far more likely to say they’d like to have their own business (38 percent of boys, 27 percent of girls). Boys are also more likely to hope they can take the money and run, as 36 percent of them—vs. 26 percent of girls— said one of their goals in life is to retire early.

The current female skew in college enrollment is likely to continue, given that 90 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys aim to go to college. That doesn’t mean the girls are spurning domesticity: 85 percent of them (vs. 76 percent of boys) hope to get married, and 80 percent (vs. 72 percent of boys) aim to have children. More generally, the survey confirms the stereotype of teen girls as more social animals than boys. “Have good relationships with family” was cited as a goal by 89 percent of girls, vs. 79 percent of boys. “Having good relationships with friends” was picked by 88 percent of girls, vs. 79 percent of boys.

Another section of the survey focused on the stress that teens feel (or don’t feel) at present. Girls were markedly more likely than boys to say they’re stressed out all or some of the time (60 percent of girls, 42 percent of boys). For both sexes, the foremost source of stress is “a lot of schoolwork,” mentioned by 64 percent of boys and 72 percent of girls. Girls were much more likely than boys to say they’re stressed out about relationships with friends (51 percent vs. 28 percent), relationships with parents (45 percent vs. 31 percent) and relationships with boyfriend/ girlfriend (36 percent vs. 23 percent). Girls are also more likely than boys to be stressed about matters as diverse as their health (18 percent vs. 8 percent), insufficient sleep (53 percent vs. 40 percent) and their overall appearance (35 percent vs. 17 percent). The biggest gender gap, though, came with respect to “weight/body image” as a source of teenage stress: 47 percent of girls, vs. 21 percent of boys, accorded it that status.