Worries about Academics and Making Parents Proud Are Top Concerns as "Tweens" Start New School Year

Jitters about peer pressure and dissatisfaction with physical appearance also weigh in, according to national survey


September 17, 2003

Kaitlyn Troy
(212) 614-4770

Wendy O'Donnell
(212) 229-0500 x258

New York, N.Y.—Today's tweens aren't as worried about being "cool" or making new friends this new school year as they are about having harder homework (71% of girls; 68% of boys), getting good grades (59% of girls; 60% of boys), and making their parents proud (43% for both girls and boys), according to a national survey of more than 800 pre-teens, ages 8-12. The Unilever/Girl Scout Self-Esteem Survey, conducted by RoperASW, also reveals that other kids trying to get them to do things that they shouldn't are among the top three concerns pre-teens are "very worried" about.

Most pre-teen girls are highly satisfied with the academic and social aspects of their lives, including how smart they are (75%) and how many friends they have (78%), but their looks are a major source of dissatisfaction. More than half of the girls surveyed (54%) say they like how much they weigh only "a little" or "not at all," and 15% are completely dissatisfied. Four in ten are dissatisfied with their height and their overall appearance. Tween boys surveyed are troubled by their appearance as well—55% say that they like how much they weigh "a little" or "not at all."

This survey was conducted on behalf of the uniquely ME! THE GIRL SCOUT/ UNILEVER SELFESTEEM PROGRAM, developed by Unilever and Girl Scouts of the USA and designed to build and foster self-esteem in girls ages 8-14 across the nation and in Puerto Rico. The two-year-old program is one of several Unilever initiatives focused on youth and education—and is the first self-esteem program of its kind to integrate volunteer support of corporate employees and to reach youth at the grassroots level.

Over the past year, uniquely ME! national spokesperson, Olympic gold medalist and gymnastics superstar Dominique Dawes, has traveled across the country speaking to youth about the importance of building strong self-confidence and a healthy self-image.

"Kids today face incredible amounts of pressure from many sources—school, parents, and peers," said Dawes. "It is very important that kids understand that everyone has to face issues about self-esteem from time to time, even celebrities and top athletes. But if you believe in yourself and like who you are, you can achieve your aspirations and dreams."

The Unilever/Girl Scout Self-Esteem Survey also reveals that the relationships tweens have with adults are major confidence boosters. Approximately 90% of tweens say that how they are treated by the adults in their lives—either those in their household, their teachers or other adults—makes them feel good about themselves.

"There's good news for parents in this survey. Contrary to popular opinion, pre-teens are concerned with succeeding in school and making their parents proud," said Harriet S. Mosatche, Ph.D., Senior Director of Research and Program for Girl Scouts of the USA. "However, dissatisfaction with physical appearance and worries about peer pressure are major concerns. Both of these might be indicative of low self-esteem, which is why uniquely ME! was developed. We want to empower girls to deal with whatever issues they face."

"Unilever is committed to helping youth reach their full potential by addressing the physical, intellectual and emotional aspects of self-esteem, problems that are manifested in many ways and have serious social consequences," said Stacie Nevadomski, Director, Corporate Affairs for Unilever HPC-NA. "By partnering with organizations that bring expertise in the area of self-esteem—such as Girl Scouts—we are able to develop and support programs that strive to foster good self-esteem and a sense of confidence in kids to help them best meet the challenges of life."

Other key survey findings:

uniquely ME! Program

The uniquely ME! core curriculum focuses on helping girls develop the skills necessary to face the challenges that lie ahead. It consists of three activity booklets, uniquely ME! The Way To Be, uniquely ME! Inside & Out, and uniquely ME! The Real Deal. All booklets are available in English and bilingual English/Spanish versions and are accessible to Girl Scout troop leaders, adult volunteers, and girls across the country. In addition to the core curriculum, each Girl Scout council, on an individual council-by-council basis, offers hands-on activities such as mentoring, community service or sports. These activities work in conjunction with the uniquely ME! curriculum to inspire girls to develop a sense of individualism, leadership, and self-confidence.

About the Survey

The Unilever/Girl Scout Self-Esteem Survey was commissioned by Unilever with support from Girl Scouts of the USA and conducted by RoperASW via telephone from July 22 through August 4, 2003. A total of 804 interviews were conducted among children ages 8-12 (401 girls and 403 boys).

The sample was drawn from a random, national sample of households identified as having children in the target age group. Age, gender, and geographic information was collected. The margin of error for the complete sample is +/- 4 percentage points.

About Girl Scouts of the USA
Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.8 million girls and adults. Now in its 91st year, GSUSA continues to help cultivate values, social conscience, and self-esteem in young girls, while also teaching them critical life skills that will enable them to succeed as adults. In Girl Scouting—and its special girls-only environment—girls discover the fun, friendship and power of girls together. 91 Years. Girl Scouts. Still Growing Strong. Visit us at www.girlscouts.org.

About Unilever
Unilever is one of the world's largest consumer products companies with annual sales of approximately $47 billion in 2002. It produces and markets a wide range of foods and home and personal care products. Unilever operates in 88 countries around the globe and employs approximately 258,000 people. In the United States, Unilever sales were approximately $11 billion in 2002. It employs approximately 15,225 people and has 59 offices and manufacturing sites in 21 states. Visit Unilever at www.unilever.com.

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