Book Review – Girls on the Edge

Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls-Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental ToxinsGirls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

This book was a recommended read on the Well Trained Mind forums and I was intrigued by the title.  In the past I have read a few books about the pressures that our modern society (and advertising in particular) places on our young girls.  In the introduction of this book, Dr. Sax profiles three girls with different problems: one obsesses about getting accepted into an Ivy League school, the second has a best friend turn on her in the ninth grade and has to deal with cyber-bullying, and the third is dealing with image issues after the onset of puberty.  In the first 4 chapters, Dr. Sax delves into what he considers to be the four factors that are putting our daughters at risk.  The last 3 chapters are devoted to how a girl’s mind, body, and spirit can be nourished and nurtured to help her become part of a larger community.

Chapter 1| Sexual identity
Simply put, young girls are being bombarded with the message that they need to be sexy.  Sexy clothes and beauty products are being marketed to younger and younger girls while popular YA books (Twilight is specifically referenced here) are filled with young girls acting in a highly sexual manner.  Dr. Sax emphasizes that sexuality (your identity as a man or a woman) is a good thing while the sexualization (being an object of pleasure for others) is not.  The surge in noncommittal sexual relationships and the “lesbian chic” culture are also discussed.

Chapter 2| The Cyberbubble
Many tweens are getting caught up in MySpace, Facebook, and Instant Messaging (IMing).  Girls are becoming microcelebrities and are constantly working on their “brand” by editing photos and posting cute comments to get attention.  Cyber-bullying and sexting (sending sexy pictures via cell phone) are covered as well.

Chapter 3|  Obsessions
Body image problems (anorexia and bulemia), drinking, self-cutting, and anorexia of the soul are covered in this chapter.  Anorexia of the soul is probably the most profound section that I personally read in this book.  Basically, even things that may appear to be good on the surface, such as the intense desire to get good grades and attend an Ivy League school, may be bad if such a pursuit turns out a child that is not multidimensional (does not have any other passions in life).

Chapter 4| Environmental Toxins
Essentially, this chapter reviews the factors that may contribute to the early onset of puberty.  According to the research that Dr. Sax has reviewed, as girls progress through puberty they become less satisfied with their bodies.  Early puberty also puts girls at a greater risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, and engaging in deliquent behavior.  So, what causes puberty to begin at an early age?  Maybe plastics, phthaltes, and the lack of inhibitory pheremones from the biological father.

Chapter 5| Mind
This chapter is a look into whether the “earlier is better” mindset that is pervading education is true.  Girls are also apparently much better at detecting genuine care and concern coming from their parents and teachers than are boys.

Chapter 6| Body
This chapter looks at what type of physical activities are beneficial for girls.  Parents are cautioned about which sports are chosen, even at young ages since girls tend to stick with an activity where they have friends even if they no longer enjoy that activity.  Cheerleading, gymnastics, and figure skating are not good choices for girls since, according to Dr. Sax, the risks outweigh the benefits and there is often a high premium placed on looks in these sports.  Girls should also cross train to lessen their risk for injury.  Dr. Sax also makes a strong case for girls playing on all girl teams instead of coed teams.

Chapter 7| Spirit
Spiritual beliefs and a female support group (up to 5 females which may include the mother) are essential for a young woman.

Price: $17.16 at Amazon
Overall:  This is definitely a must read book since it addresses quite a few hurdles that our daughters will face as they mature.  Even if you do not agree with everything that Dr. Sax writes it is a lot of “food for thought.”

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