The Triple Bind - Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today's Pressures


A book review on the scholarly examination by Dr. Stephen Hinshaw of the pressure on teenage girls.

Originally published by the author in

The explosion of social media and digital communication has sparked a war against adolescent girls. The pressure to be perfect, to be all things, and to deny themselves. With all the demands proliferating the media images including advertisements that celebrate the ideal image it is no wonder that adolescent is ripe with triggers that amplify the need to conform for acceptance. Junior and senior high is never easy, even for the popular girls, because social pressure and the internal need to be accepted is all important.

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, a research psychologist and scholar at UC, Berkeley has written a piercing book with Rachel Kranz titled "The Triple Bind" on just how tough it is to be growing up female these days.This is an in-depth scholarly examination of the psychological impact of how societal demands increase the mental health deterioration of young females at their most vulnerable ages. For every parent with a daughter this book is a must read for just how much they must work to counteract the effects of these expectations. It is no wonder that the outcomes for women who were educated at all-girls schools in their formative years, is positive for academic and career achievement, as well as more solid self esteem. If removing adolescent girls from the pressure of competing for boys and eliminating the factors that contribute to them thinking that such approval equals self worth is the answer, perhaps more all-girls schools are a must.

While this solution seems extreme the alternate appears to be just as extreme. To lose their sense of self and self-value is something that does not need to happen nor should it. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was one media platform that addressed the deterioration in female self-esteem during adolescence in response to unrealistic images and their demands on young women. From his exclusive interview with Amazon, the following excerpt from Dr. Hinshaw is almost a warning statement of how far the pressure can cause even the strongest adolescent girl to buckle:

The Triple Bind boldly addresses the issues behind these phenomena. Certainly, the mental health problems under consideration have biological and even genetic risks. But genes have not changed suddenly, within the span of a few years. There must be something about the current social climate that is pushing the envelope, uncovering girls’ vulnerabilities. What could this “something” be? In our view today’s girls have unique pressures: (1) to be nurturing and supportive (the traditional role for girls); (2) to be competitive and “on top” (with the new opportunities girls have); and (3) to make it all seem effortless and natural, in a ultra-sexualized and ultra-feminized way, with no real alternatives to develop a unique identity. It is this third part of the triple bind that gives girls no way out--with the 24/7 world of the cyber-culture making every move and every “look” visible to the outside world... and with media images of highly sexualized teens visible nearly everywhere. Through careful summaries of research and through vivid case examples, this analysis covers the many ways in which the triple bind rears its head. At the same time, we make the point that finding ways for our daughters to connect with a wider world of commitment and meaning may be the optimal solution to this dangerous, crucial, triple-bind problem.