Interpersonal Stressors Encountered by Adolescent Girls


Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Mike Ferry
Guest Bio: Mike Ferry is a middle school teacher and parent of four young kids. He focuses on helping children develop the habits of happiness and innovation. His new book, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, lays out that vision. Researchers have found links between happiness, success, and innovation.

Segment Overview: Mike Ferry talks about the factors related to girls having such a high rate of interpersonal stressors. He discusses ways to developing more effective ways of responding to these stressors.


Health Professional Radio

Neal: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m your host Neal Howard. When it comes to stressors, we’re all aware of the stressors. We all see the news, we read the papers, we see what’s going on in the internet and around the world. We’re all under a great deal of stress. Our adolescents, though, seem to be under more stress not just because of what’s going in the world and around them but just because they’re going through adolescence. Our guest in studio today, Mr. Mike Ferry, is a middle school teacher and a parent. He’s also a published author. He’s got a new book out called “Teaching Happiness and Innovation” where he talks about research that has found link between happiness and success especially when dealing with our adolescents. How you doing today Mike?

M: I’m doing just fine. Thanks so much Neal.

N: Thank you so much for returning with us. You know, your book “Teaching Happiness and Innovation” talks about some of the factors relating to adolescents and stressors. But it points out many of the factors that are relating to girls, sometimes having a higher rate of interpersonal stressors as you pointed it out in another segment when you were here with us before. I’d like you to talk a little bit about your book “Teaching Happiness and Innovation” and discuss a few of the ways that we can help our adolescent girls to deal with these stressors in a more effective way.

M: Yes, absolutely. Well, my book “Teaching Happiness and Innovation” basically takes the connection between happiness and success. Showing that the happier we are as individuals, the more likely that we’ll find success in every domain of life. And we can practice the habit of happiness which would make us happier people and accordingly more successful. The second half of the book deals with innovation which is another topic but really important for our world. We need more medical advances. We need more jobs. We just need more creativity out there. Back to your question and the topic at hand here – yes. Stress is something that impacts us all and we need some stress in our lives that compel us to action. If you could just imagine a guitar string, for example. That guitar string could not make a sound unless there’s a bit of tension, right? If there’s no tense at all, it’s too flat. You won’t get any sound. If it’s too tight then it just snaps and you get knocked out. So we need to have a happy medium there.

N: A balance, yeah?

M: Exactly. We need a balance between having nothing at all and having way too much. And in my years as a teacher, one thing that I’ve noticed is girls in particular – although this is not universally true as there are some boys who fit this description as well – tend to be very perfectionistic.

N: Okay.

M: And wants to get everything just right. And as the school work becomes more difficult – as we move into middle school, high school years and so on – this could be a real problem because perfectionism is setting you up to fail in many ways because…

N: Now if I can interrupt for just one moment. What I heard all my life is that girls tend to be smarter than boys.  I guess for lack of a better term, smarter than boys. And you just pointed out that that girls tend to be more of a perfectionist when it comes to school work and different situations. So, basically that is not a myth.

M: Well. First of all, if I could just back up – the fact that this concept out there that girls might be smarter than boys in a school situation – we need to work on the word ‘smart’ for example. That indicates that we believe that there is something innate that we bring to the table. That girls are just born with the ability to be better students than boys – if we subscribe to that belief. This is actually connected to having a fixed mindset which is related to perfectionism. I’ll see if I can explain this briefly here. If we have a fixed mindset, then we believe that intelligence is static. In other words, this is the way we were born. This is the way we’re always going to be. “So I’m born smart. I’m born really good at math. I’m born really good at music or athletics or whatever.”

N: Uh huh.

M: And as school gets more difficult, if you are accustomed to being told how smart you are as a young kid then you believe as you move from kindergarten, first grade and so on. You believe, “Oh, I’m just a smart individual.”

N: Uh huh.

M: Because this is what the teachers are telling you. This what your parents are telling you, all the people in your life. Well, what happens when you get to sixth or seventh grade or high school and the work actually gets a lot harder? It gets more complex and the A’s and B’s that you used to earn in the classroom become D’s and C’s. Well what happens is, girls and boys start thinking, “Well, maybe I’m really not that smart.” And this is what can lead to a lot of anguish, depression, anxiety and the desire to get things just right. This is when perfectionism tends to come out because you have to prove that you’re smart and the way you do that is by making sure that you get all your ducks in a row and you get everything exactly right.

N: Not only believing that you’re smart but putting the so called “Smartness” into practical application.

M: Right. And the main thing there is if you have a fixed mindset then you think that you were born with it and there’s nothing that you could do to change it. Once things start getting difficult, once school actually becomes a little bit more abstract and you do more complex thinking and the work get a little harder – if you start to struggle a little bit, your whole world is threatened…

N: Okay.

M: Because your whole life, you’ve said, “Wow! I’m really smart.” And everybody around you have said “Wow! You got everything right on that test.” It’s colored perfectly inside the line. You are just a really intelligent, smart individual. But when things start to really challenge you intellectually, then your world can crumble. And that’s when you have to try to get on top of things and get everything just right so you can prove, “Well, you know, I really am smart.” And what we want to do with girls and with boys and just with all of us in general, is we want to work towards developing a growth mindset…

N: Okay.

M: which is the opposite of a fixed mindset. If we have a growth mindset, then we believe that we can change over time. And when we encounter difficulty, we’re actually more likely to escalate our efforts into it and the bumps in the road that we encounter, we’ll destroy it.

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Mr. Mike Ferry – a middle school teacher and the author of “Teaching Happiness and Innovation.” Discussing ways that young girls can develop, more effective ways on responding to stressors – those stressors that sometimes affect boys in different ways as they navigate the waters of adolescence. It’s been great having you here with us today Mike.

M: Well thank you. I really enjoyed it, Neal. Thank you very much.

N: Great and I’m sure we’ll be talking with you again in the future to discuss more aspects of why sometimes girls have it a little bit harder.

M: That’s good.

N: Good. Audio and transcript of this program are available at and also and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.


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