Nation’s Largest Survey of Tween and Teen Girls Shows Steep Declines in Confidence and Self-Perception Alongside Increases in Stress, Sadness and Social Media Use

The Girls’ Index survey reveals girls as young as 10 struggle with self-confidence, question their abilities and intelligence, and consume social media at unprecedented rates

The Girls’ Index™ today released its second landmark report, detailing the findings of a large-scale study that collected data from more than 17,000 girls in grades 5-12. The new report shows that since 2017, girls’ confidence, perceptions of their abilities, and acceptance of their bodies have decreased sharply, while their reports of pressure, sadness and depression, social media usage, and dislike of school have increased substantially. The responses showing the most significant change since 2017 are among fifth and sixth grade girls.

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Photo courtesy of ROX

Photo courtesy of ROX

The Girls’ Index is the nation’s largest survey designed to understand the experiences of girls in grades 5-12. First conducted in 2017, it delivers a nationally representative look at the thoughts, opinions, behaviors and perceptions of girls in the United States. The Girls’ Index is fully fielded and produced by the nonprofit organization Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX), the national leader in programming, research and education focused on girls.

“While we knew that the world had become more challenging for teen girls over the past few years, we did not expect to see the sadness and depression increase so dramatically or the confidence and self-perception to deteriorate so quickly among the youngest girls. Girls’ reports of sadness and depression increased in every grade, however, the rates of daily sadness tripled for fifth and sixth grade girls,” said Lisa Hinkelman, Ph.D., the principal investigator of The Girls’ Index and CEO of ROX. “The youngest girls are now reporting the levels of stress, self-doubt, sadness and insecurity that have typically been reported by much older teens.”

“The well-known fact that girls are starting puberty at younger ages, coupled with the findings in this new report, challenge us to pinpoint the multiple contributors to these troubling outcomes for tween girls,” Hinkelman continued. “We must deepen our understanding of the psychological, social and interpersonal factors that are contributing to this crisis and determine what must be done to stop – and reverse – this trend.”

On numerous key measures in the new report there is significant variance when comparing the 2023 and the 2017 data. Girls today are much more likely to question whether they are smart enough for their dream career and also more likely to shy away from leadership for fear of being thought of as bossy.

The drop in confidence and self-perception was particularly staggering among the fifth and sixth grade girls surveyed. Key findings from this age group included:

  • 68% of fifth grade girls described themselves as confident, down from 86% in 2017.
  • 52% of fifth and sixth grade girls, up from 23% in 2017, are not sure if they are smart enough for their dream career.
  • 15% of fifth and sixth grade girls reported feeling sad or depressed every day, up from 5% in 2017. 35% report four days per week of sadness or depression, up from 12% in 2017.
  • 95% of fifth grade girls reported using social media, and 46% of them report spending six or more hours using it each day, up from 9% in 2017. Of the fifth and sixth grade girls using social media, 58% report that their parents “rarely” or “never” monitor their social media.

Beyond girls in grades 5 and 6, The Girls’ Index survey also found decreases in confidence in girls in grades 7-11; only 12th grade girls had unchanged levels of confidence since the original survey was issued in 2017. Additional findings about girls in grades 5-12 overall include:

  • 79% of girls report that they are under so much pressure they feel like they are going to explode.
  • 55% of girls (up from 33% in 2017) report that they are afraid to be a leader because they don’t want others to think they are bossy.
  • 66% of girls (up from 46% in 2017) don’t say what they are thinking or disagree with others because they want to be liked.
  • 76% of girls do not believe that boys their age are respectful of girls.
  • 67% of girls have been told they are too loud or opinionated.

The Girls’ Index data also reveals meaningful insights regarding girls and social media. Among them:

  • 67% of girls who use fewer than two hours of social media per day describe themselves as confident, while 42% of girls who use social media more than 10 hours per day describe themselves as confident.
  • 61% of girls report that they stay up all night using their phones.

The full report is available for download at

The Girls’ Index is a proprietary, anonymous, voluntary survey that is administered in partnership with K-12 schools throughout the United States. The Girls’ Index offers the most reliable look into the lives of tween and teen girls available and is supported by the girl champions at Bread Financial.

About Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc. (ROX)

Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc. (ROX) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Columbus, Ohio and is the national authority on research, education and programming centered on girls. ROX puts data into action to create generations of confident girls who control their own relationships, experiences, decisions, and futures. ROX delivers school-based programs in 500+ schools across 30 states and operates the ROX Institute for Research and Training. For more information about ROX, visit

About Lisa Hinkelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Lisa Hinkelman is an educator, counselor, researcher, and best-selling author who has spent nearly 20 years researching girls and educating adults, first as a professor at The Ohio State University, and for the past 12 years as the Founder and CEO of Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc. (ROX). Hinkelman’s second book, “Girls Without Limits: Helping Girls Succeed in Relationships, Academics, Careers and Life,” is a Corwin Press bestseller and her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, SXSW and Education World.

We must deepen our understanding of the psychological, social and interpersonal factors that are contributing to this crisis and determine what must be done to stop – and reverse – this trend.


Amy Bagner, Fahlgren Mortine for ROX

Alyson Helwagen, Fahlgren Mortine for ROX

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