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.
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