Guiding Girls in Today’s Media Driven Society: An interview with Dr. Andrea Archibald, Developmental Psychologist at Girl Scouts USA

How are girls developing emotionally in middle school and why is it so important to build their self-esteem and leadership skills at a young age?

It’s really important. Strong self-esteem impacts a girl throughout her life. Academic achievement, school success, social skills, and healthy body image all come easier when a girl has strong self-esteem. When a girl has strong self-esteem she can combat the negative influences that might otherwise derail her.

What do you think are the largest negative influences on young girls, and how can parents and educators help them avoid those pitfalls?

The transition to teen and adolescent years is very difficult. Their bodies are changing, they’re moving to middle and high school, and the impact of peers can’t be overstated. There are strong peer influences, and they’re trying to navigate that new independence. Parents are key and immediate role models. Parents need to watch what messages the media they consume is sending to their daughters. It’s also important to notice what they are saying in front of and to their daughters. Parents should talk to girls about different qualities that come from the inside. When girls are constantly communicated about how important beauty is, certainly that can cause diminished self-esteemed.  It’s frequently better to compliment, for instance, a girls talent, her skills, her willingness to try out new things, as opposed to “how beautiful she looks”. Don’t focus solely on physical attractiveness. Real beauty comes from skills and confidence. Instead, try saying things like, “I like how you tackled that activity”, “I’m really proud of how you handled that situation”, etc.

 What does it mean for a girl to be a leader in her own life?

To be a leader in her own life means maintaining and knowing her own values, seeking challenges, taking age appropriate risks… these things are a huge confidence boost. It means being the kind of girl that stands up to a bully or gets help.

How does an all-girl environment help girls’ be self-confident and empowered members of
their communities?

When boys are in the room girls don’t feel as comfortable expressing themselves. All girl environments give girls a comfortable space to practice new skills and new roles that then easily transition to larger communities.

Where can we go for more information?

Go to, to find out how to become a member or adult volunteer.

Vanessa Wright