Girls on the Edge

The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls: Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, & Environmental Toxins

There is an ongoing debate in the United States which I call “the gender wars.” When I refer to “the gender wars,” I mean the ongoing argument between people – usually Republicans – who think boys are being shortchanged, and other people – usually Democrats – who think girls are being shortchanged. In reality, both girls and boys are being shortchanged. Not much is gained by arguing about who is worse off, girls or boys. Boys today are more likely to be disengaged from the real world compared to boys 30 years ago. But American girls today are far more likely to be anxious and depressed compared with American girls 30 years ago. Which is worse: being a disengaged boy who sits in his bedroom happily playing video games 20 hours a week, or being an anxious girl who secretly cuts herself with razor blades? The question is meaningless. Both the boy and the girl in this example need help. But they need different kinds of help.

The motivation to write this book began in part with my frustration with people who assumed that because girls now outnumber boys among those graduating from college and those earning high academic honors, therefore girls are somehow “winning”. Boys are having problems. Girls are having problems. But girls’ problems are usually different from boys’ problems. This book is my attempt, as the father of a daughter growing up in the United States, to understand the challenges now facing girls growing up in the United States.


Chapter 1: First Factor: Sexual Identity

Chapter 2: Second Factor: The Cyberbubble

Chapter 3: Third Factor: Obsessions

Chapter 4: Fourth Factor: Environmental Toxins

Chapter 5: Mind

Chapter 6: Body

Chapter 7: Spirit

  • “The best book about the current state of girls and young women in America . . . offers astonishing and troubling new insight . . .”

    — The Atlantic magazine (view article)

  • “This is essential reading for parents and teachers, and one of the most thought-provoking books on teen development available.”

    — Library Journal

  • “Packed with advice and concrete suggestions for parents, Girls on the Edge is a treasure trove of rarely-seen research on girls.”

    — Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out