It’s telling that there is also a happiness gap between boys and girls in high school. As life has generally gotten better over the last generation — less crime, longer-living grandparents and much cooler gadgets — male high school seniors have gotten happier. About 25 percent say they are very satisfied with their lives, up from 16 percent in 1976. Roughly 22 percent of senior girls now give that answer, unchanged from the 1970s.
Hmmmm. One theory presented in the article is an increase in expectations for girls, in terms of grades, activities, and aspirations, while still feeling the pressure to meet unrealistic standards of beauty. The general idea is that girls were once just expected to be hot, now they are expected to be smart, ambitious, and hot at the same time.
This theory has been backed up by some research (see Girls Inc) and certainly makes sense for a certain percentage of high school girls, but doesn't go far enough. (I've been a part of many discussions about whether this applies across race and class lines) Like many topics that address the gender divide, it ignores the boys and men. Do boys and men not face the pressures and expectations around grades, activities, and how they look? Seen an Axe commerical lately? Impossible standards of masculinity are as present in our culture as femininity and it seems to follow that boys feel those pressures too.
Appearances are one thing, expectations around academics and performance are another. If boys don't feel the pressure around their futures, why is that? Is the good 'ol boys network so apparent that high school boys don't feel the need to get their act together?
My point here is that if we are seeing some kind of reversal in happiness trends between girls and boys, we should think critically about why that might be.