A study conducted in 2011 by psychologists from the University of Missouri found that teenage girls who talk about their problems could actually be making things worse. The six-month study questioned over 800 girls and boys to assess depression, anxiety, quality of friendships, and co-rumination–or, talking excessively about a problem.
That girls were shown to co-ruminate more than boys is unsurprising, as our society tends to encourage boys at least implicitly to suppress their feelings, whereas girl talk is actively celebrated. But could this insistence on the value of talking things over with friends be damaging? By spending a high percentage of their time focusing on their problems, girls are unintentionally elevating these issues to the forefront of their minds, which could lead to anxiety or depression.
Amanda Rose, associate professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri who conducted the study, has advised that girls be encouraged to engage in other positive activities such as sports to take their minds off problems they can’t control. I hope that any parents or teachers reading the study will bear in mind however that this is not proof that girl talk is bad, but that excessive girl talk could be harmful.
That isn’t a shocker. How many times, even as adults, do we obsess over a small problem only to find later that it’s either not such a huge problem, or that the solution is relatively simple? If adults can’t stop obsessing over problems, how can we expect a teenage girl to stop? Especially when they are spending a great deal of their time in high school, a building where several hundred, maybe even thousand, other teenagers have few common bonds other than age. Put a group of adults in the same situation, Robert Faris, a sociologist from UC Davis, argues, and we will see them behave in a similar way.
While I hope that girls can find other outlets for dealing with their problems, I’d hate for anyone to completely discount the value of talking over a problem with a close friend. I can’t count the numbers of times that talking with a friend has helped me. The key–and this is something we all need to learn–is to know when to stop talking.
Girl Museum Inc.