Girls are unhappier than boys, and they have been getting progressively more miserable since 2009, at least according to the Good Childhood Report, 2017.
Somewhat depressingly, this report is evidence against the March of Progress view of childhood.
The report measures childhood well-being across a number of different ‘domains’ using a number of different sources, drawing on mainly quantitative survey data conducted with 60 000 children.
‘Domains’ are simply different areas of social life, including how satisfied children are with such things as school, family life and their appearance. Some of the questions designed to measure life-satisfaction are as follows:
The main findings of the report…
- The average level of well-being reported by girls has declined since 2009, while boys’ reported well-being has remained stable.
- Girls report significantly lower levels of satisfaction with their appearance compared to boys.
- However, the one area of life where girls report higher levels of satisfaction is within education.
Why are girls less happy than boys?
The report also analyses the gender differences in happiness by looking at different levels of bullying and social media usage. It concludes that:
- Differences in reported levels of bullying cannot explain the reported differences in unhappiness by gender. The report says: ‘There were significant gender differences in rates of physical bullying – 23% of boys had been physically bullied compared to 13% of girls. Rates of other bullying were very similar for girls (33%) and boys (31%)
- Girls are twice as likely to be intense users of social media (defined as more than 3 hours a day) – 13% of girls and 6% of boys fall into this category. The report states that intense usage of social media is correlated with lower levels of reported subjective well-being, and that this may account for some of the gender differences in happiness shown above, especially where satisfaction (or lack of it) with appearance is concerned.
- HOWEVER, the report also says that ‘normal’ levels of social media usage have no impact on happiness level and overall level of social media usage explains less than 2% of differences in reported levels of happiness: other factors are far more important.
While gender differences in reported levels of happiness may look dramatic, this might be a bit of a distraction….. it seems that a poor experience of family life and experience of the social problems associated with deprivation and living in a poor area are far better predictors of child misery than gender!