The green eyed monster. It has the ability to transform the sweetest girls into terrors seemingly overnight. But what causes jealousy in teenager girls? What are the long term effects of a jealousy filled friendship, relationship or sibling rivalry and what can you do as a parent to help your teen?
Recent studies have uncovered an alarming trend towards teenage girls harbouring more jealously than their male peers. Although there is no definitive reason for this, some claim it is the influence of the media, the behaviours they see modelled by female role models and societal pressures that make girls more vulnerable to jealousy than boys. There are three relationships in particular that are more likely to encompass an element of jealousy friendships with peers, romantic relationships and the relationship between siblings. Each of these relationships have their own root causes of jealousy.
Jealousy in friendships is often born of envy or comparing oneself to others. A discovery survey of 5,000 girls found that between the ages of eight and twelve – 38% of the girls surveyed were jealous of how other girls looked. Those surveyed also pinpointed their peers’ talent, popularity and intelligence as sources of jealousy. Being jealous because a friend has higher test scores, more friends or grew boobs before them is the direct result of teens weighing themselves up against others in order to gauge their worth. There tends to be an idea among teenage girls that in order to be worthy you need to have exactly what everybody else has. The pack mentality of adolescences squashes individuality and difference and rewards sameness.
Jealousy in romantic relationships is possibly the most common form of jealousy that anybody experiences. However young people who are entering their first relationships can have trouble managing this jealousy or think of it as a positive aspect of their relationship. Some research suggests that teenage girls believe if they or their partner model jealous behaviour they are showing their significant other how much they care. Relationship jealousy in teens can come about due to a naivety regarding the expectations and responsibilities of a partner when engaging with others, or because your daughter has experienced or witnessed a relationship or situation in her current relationship where a partner has cheated or she has felt cheated.
Of course if anybody has a sibling they’ll know what it’s like to deal with sibling rivalry caused by jealousy. The reasons behind jealousy in sibling relationships are varied and complex however research suggests the most common causes centre around the idea of equality or fairness and some of the same issues that can spark jealousy in friendships. Siblings often feel that they aren’t being treated the same, having the same money spent on them or being given the same opportunities as their siblings which can blossom into sibling rivalry and jealousy.
But jealousy is part of the human condition right? It’s something we all experience at some stage so what’s the big deal if a teenager is struggling with it? There are long term emotional and potentially behavioural consequences of dealing with extended or extreme jealousy in any one of these relationships. Research suggests that there is a direct link between a teens self-worth and feeling isolated and alone and their vulnerability to jealousy. This means that potentially your daughters normal behaviour of jealousy is a symptom of a greater issue which can have long lasting impacts. Jealousy that isn’t dealt with well can also lead to anger and even violent tendencies which can carry into adulthood and form the basis of how our children interact with future partners, co-workers, family and eventually their own children.
So what can you do to help your child process and deal with jealousy in a healthy way that won’t have a negative impact now or in the future? Here are a few helpful hints:
- Don’t trivialise or make light of her feelings.
Telling her she’ll get over it or teaching or modelling bad behaviours such as sour grapes. “She always gets good things though doesn’t she?” It casting an unhealthy light on your child’s jealousy.
- Let her know it’s normal.
Maybe share a story with her about your own experiences of jealousy and how they panned out. Let her know the consequences of your actions if you responded negatively to jealousy or how much better it eventually got if you responded well.
- Be honest and realistic.
If she’s jealous about not making a team or not having something that somebody else does don’t promise her that she’ll get on the team next season or that the person she’s jealous of will have something negative happen to them. It just sets her up for disappointment if those things don’t come to fruition and makes the world seem all the more unfair.
- Build self confidence
Focus on the things your daughter has and can do rather than the things she feels that’s she’s missing out on. If your daughter is happy with how well she can draw or paint she might not be as concerned if she doesn’t make the soccer team.
- Teach her the importance of healthy relationships
Model supportive relationships with friends and peers and introduce her to functioning romantic relationships. Show her how things are in the real world so she doesn’t spend her time comparing her relationships to what she’s seen in the media.
Jealousy in a normal part of human life that we all experience. However, due to their age and inexperience regarding relationships it can have a large impact of the life and future of your teenage daughter. If you believe she’s dealing with destructive jealousy, talk to her about it; don’t wait for her to come to you. The relationships she has now will set the foundation for how she interacts with people the rest of her life.