Girlguiding launches Girls' Attitudes Survey 2010

Girlguiding launches Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2010 and uncovers a generation of girls and young women under pressure

6th September 2010: Today, Girlguiding launches its second Girls’ Attitudes Survey looking at the views and opinions of today’s girls and young women. New findings show that the pressure to look attractive is taking a hold on girls’ lives. Girls are also worried about academic pressure and believe stress leads their peers to turn to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and getting drunk. They say that these can, in turn, lead to even more serious implications for their health and wellbeing. 

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey is a unique snapshot of the opinions, attitudes and experiences of girls and young women in 2010. The survey was commissioned by Girlguiding to explore the opinions of girls in the UK at large and was conducted with over 1,200 girls, forming a representative geographical and social sample. The organisation has not surveyed its members.

The 2010 survey findings highlight the pressure to be attractive, thereby supporting Girlguiding’s ongoing petition for a kitemark to distinguish between airbrushed and natural images, launched in August 2010.


Girls say that smoking and binge drinking are the two most serious health issues they face today and stress is a major contributing factor to girls demonstrating these behaviours.

  • 82% of girls aged 11-21 said that smoking is a serious health issue for today’s girls.
  • 81% cited that alcohol abuse is a serious issue for today’s girls.
  • 50% think that girls smoke to relieve stress.
  • More than half (54%) think that girls drink alcohol to relieve their worries.
  • 1 in 5 (18%) would not seek help for smoking or alcohol problems.
  • 78% of girls believe that being drunk is the most common reason for having unprotected sex.

The pressure to be attractive is still a major part of girls’ lives, supporting Girlguiding’s call for a kitemark to distinguish between airbrushed and natural images

  • Around half of girls (47%) believe that the pressure to look attractive is the most negative part of being female.
  • The 2009 survey found that 42% of girls had been on strict diets.  In 2010 girls were asked why.  75% said that strict dieting took place to be attractive to others with 66% claiming it was because of the media portrayal of women.
  • Girls from lower performing schools place more importance on being attractive compared to girls from higher performing schools – 33% from lower performing schools compared with 20% from higher performing schools.
  • Additionally, girls from lower performing schools also thought it more important to be rich (24% vs 3%) and famous (32% vs 14%) than girls from higher performing schools.
  • Being fit and active was selected by more than half (54%) of girls as an important factor in being successful in life.

The quality of girls’ relationships is more important to them than having a traditional family set-up. However, bullying at school and problems with friends are still a concern.

  • Over three quarters (78%) of girls aged 7-21 believe that single parents can be just as successful as married couples in bringing up children.
  • Only 20% think that married couples make better parents.
  • Nearly four fifths of girls say that the most important thing for a ‘good’ family is having family members who support and spend time with them.
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of girls think that having good friends is the key to a successful life.
  • However, for a third of 7-16 year olds bullying or problems with friends are the worst thing about school. For girls aged 16-21 who work or are not in education, bullying and problems with colleagues is still a concern for a quarter (25%).

Despite the recession, following several major natural disasters during 2010 girls have a keen sense of compassion and duty towards others.

  • Around two thirds of girls (64%) believe that the UK should be providing more financial aid to countries facing disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

Cathy Fraser Girlguiding spokesperson and head of Girlguiding’s youth panel Advocate said: “Following on from the fascinating insight that last years’ survey gave us into the views and opinions of girls today, the Girls Attitudes Survey 2010 delves deeper into the reasons behind some of last years’ outcomes.

We know that girls are growing up in ever changing, increasingly complicated times and, as adults who care about their experiences, we must listen to their views. Girls are telling us that the world they are living in can be extremely stressful, which leads to a range of unhealthy behaviours and outcomes. It is vital that we support girls and young women to develop their self-esteem and resilience so they can cope with it. By understanding the issues that girls and young women are facing we can support them to navigate these complex factors and become strong and confident members of society.”

Leah Parsons (18) member of Girlguiding’s youth panel Advocate said: “Our petition to label airbrushed images came out of some of the findings of the Girls Attitudes Survey last year and it is interesting to see further evidence of the pressure on girls and young women reflected in this years’ results. The survey is a chance for people to hear what girls really think about the issues that affect our lives so it will be great to see how this develops and what kind of impact it could have.”


Notes to Editors

For more information or full copies of the reports contact the Girlguiding Press Office on 020 7592 1733 or pressoffice@girlguiding.org.uk

The research was conducted by leading research specialists on children Childwise

A 40 second video has been produced to highlight the report, it can be viewed at www.girlguiding.org.uk/girlsattitudes

The Girls Attitudes video was produced by Creative Orchestra. Creative Orchestra is one of London's top creative ad agencies and is unique in the fact it cultivates a lot of young creative talent and also has the highest percentage of women in it's creative department of any ad agency in London. It's also one of the few with a female Creative Director - Victoria Gallardo. For more information visit http://www.creativeorchestra.com/. The photographer and director is Andrew Atkinson http://www.andrew-atkinson.com/. Musician Hayden Parsey http://www.myspace.com/haydenparsey

The Girlguiding petition to distinguish between airbrushed and natural images is open until 2nd November 2010 and can be signed by visiting www.girlguiding.org.uk/petition

Girls’ Attitudes is a survey of girls from across the United Kingdom aged 7-21 years on their attitudes towards key social, political and economic issues.

The survey consisted of five categories, which girls within the guiding movement identified as the most interesting areas to question their peers on:

  • Families and Relationships
  • Education, Training, Skills and Careers
  • Society, Culture and Community
  • Environment and World Events
  • Health and Wellbeing.

The cohort was divided into three age groups: 7-11, 11-16 and 16-21 years, with an age-appropriate questionnaire devised for each. Certain common questions were also asked of all groups.

The girls surveyed form a representative sample of girls and young women across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Booster interviews and data weighting have been employed where necessary to adjust imbalances during fieldwork.

Fieldwork took place between March and April 2010.

Girlguiding is the UK’s largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women, with around half a million members and recognised volunteers. Over a third of girls and young women (aged 7-21) are involved in guiding, or have been in the past and almost half of all the women in the UK have been involved in guiding at some stage in their lives.  We run Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section, enabling girls and young women to develop their potential whatever their ability or background. We are striving to offer new opportunities to a broad diversity of communities through our expanding network of 60,000 trained volunteer Leaders.

At Girlguiding we seek to give girls a voice and provide a unique, girl-only space where members feel comfortable just being themselves. Our members, challenged by a girl-led programme that extends beyond badges, enjoy a spectrum of activities from outdoor adventure to pop-concerts to community action.

Girlguiding, part of a worldwide Movement of approximately 10 million girls and young women in 145 countries, launched its Centenary celebrations in September 2009.  Registered Charity No: 306016

Guiding has had a positive impact on girls' lives for the past 100 years.