Young women in mixed sex schools ‘feel more pressure to be thin and have lower self esteem’

The Mail is reporting new research that suggests girls at mixed-sex schools feel more under pressure to be thin than those at all-girls’ schools.

They were also more likely to feel pressure to be thin and have lower self-esteem, it was revealed.

The presence of boys may make girls worry more about how they look, researchers said.

On the other hand, an all-female environment may protect young women from negative messages about body image, they added.

The team, from the University of Bristol, wanted to investigate the factors that contribute to a young woman’s confidence.

Society ‘continues to advocate an unrealistically thin body shape’ and girls being aware of this pressure – and acting on it – is ‘increasingly concerning’, they said. 

They wanted to find out if the type of school a young woman attends affects her self-esteem – something they said was ‘largely unexplored’ before their study.

As part of their research, they recruited 212 British girls with an average age of 13.8 attending either a single-sex or co-educational (mixed sex) school in West Sussex, south east England.

The schools were broadly similar in socioeconomic terms, and school uniform was compulsory at both…

While there were few differences between the two schools, women in the same-sex one were more likely to take pressures to be thin to heart.

The presence of boys may cause women to care more about how they look – lowering their confidence, researchers said.

Writing in the report, lead author Victoria Cribb, of the University of Bristol, said: ‘Internalising the thin ideal portrayed by the media has a stronger link with self-esteem in girls attending a co-educational school…

The study was published in the Journal of Adolescence. 

More at: Boys DO make girls body conscious: Young women in mixed sex schools ‘feel more pressure to be thin and have lower self esteem’


You can find the research paper at: Girls feeling good at school: School gender environment, internalization and awareness of socio-cultural attitudes associations with self-esteem in adolescent girls


The actual research is somewhat more circumspect than the report or headlines here – suggesting at the very least that further research is needed – but what do you make of the suggestion that co-educational schools may result in lower self-esteem for teenage girls?

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Categories: Research and Secondary.


  1. julielou62

    SchoolsImprove Confused as article says girls in same sex school take thinness to heart?? #parentingmatters

  2. julielou62

    SchoolsImprove continued Please check 4th para from end. This makes confusing reading about important subject

  3. SchoolsImprove

    julielou62 Yes – good spot. That’s how they’ve reported it but clearly wrong. Advise reading the full research report which is linked to.

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