A new study has found girls at co-ed schools feel greater pressure to be thin and have lower self-esteem than those attending single-sex schools.

Research from the UK the has found the environment in a single-sex school minimises negative messages about body image felt by many teenage girls.

The study of 212 girls with a median age of 13 found the presence of boys may inflate their appearance concerns and lower self-esteem.

This finding adds weight to the argument that a single-sex school environment encourages “improved self-esteem, psychological and social well being in adolescent girls”, ­researcher Victoria Cribb said.  “Within this type of school environment, peer friendship groups and support from parents and friends may not be ­diluted by … the pressure to ­appear a certain way in front of boys.”

The researchers from the University of Bristol found that although the two type of school environments appeared not to be very different, girls attending co-educational schools were significantly more likely to internalise social pressure leading to lower self-esteem.

Ms Cribb and co-researcher Dr Anne Haase, from the University of Bristol, found 46 per cent of girls were trying to lose weight, with 23 per cent dieting and 41 per cent exercising.

This was despite the fact the majority were within a normal BMI and one third were under weight, with just 13 of the girls being deemed as overweight.

Previous Australian-based research on the same issue has found girls in both types of school environments wanted to be thin, however a greater emphasis on intelligence and professional success at single-sex schools was detailed as having a positive influence on a student’s self esteem.

Image source:  Shutterstock

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  • From what I have witnessed I don’t think it makes any difference. Some of it is peer pressure. Also they want to be like skinny models which is not a healthy diet for a growing girl to have.


  • I find this hard to believe – I went to same sex school full f self esteem eroding bullies.


  • Interesting article,l went to same sex school and we also were concerned about weight issues,most teenagers l imagine would.


  • Wow it is a shame kids are faced with such pressure


  • Interesting findings, i think that it is just something you have to learn to deal with and learn to love yourself :)


  • I went to a single sexed school and girls were always dieting and more concerned about looks then friends at coed secondary schools.


  • Wow! Hadn’t heard this one before. There is so much pressure about body image these days. No wonder kids suffer anxiety and other issues with these things to deal with on top of everything else.


  • Incredible. I would have never imagined. I went to co-ed schools and never felt the pressure. My daughter is in the same situation.


  • I can remember being 12years old and not wanting to wear shorts for Sports at school because i thought I was fat. So crazy as I wasnt at all. Im not sure where that came from.


  • Us girls just can’t catch a break wherever we go. Super sad that it starts so young though!


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