A recent commercial sponsored by Research Now called “throw like a girl” describes how the loss of power (confidence, self esteem) can occur when a girl reaches puberty. According to the commercial, when the interviewer asked girls who had reached puberty to demonstrate what it is like to “throw like a girl” the girls demonstrated “stereo typical limp arms” and/or “silly facial expressions” of what it is like to “throw like a girl.” However when the interviewer asked pre-puberty girls, the same question, the girls exhibited the opposite. These girls threw with the intensity of seasoned pitchers.

The interviewer seems to be revealing that values such as assertiveness and self-confidence shift with the onset of puberty due to our society’s judgment that confident girls are less attractive or feminine than unassertive girls. The study found that more than half of the girls surveyed claimed their self-confidence levels dropped with the onset of puberty.

Perhaps the pre-puberty group maintained their strength and assertiveness because they had not yet been labeled as part of the group labeled pubescent.  They held onto their natural strength because they did not need to conform to a group? Peer group pressure causes the pubescent group to conform to the peer group values such as feminity, which implies that one must “throw like a girl?” Our social media defines what feminism should look like. Interestingly, developmental psychologists refer to the pubescent stage as identity assurance versus role confusion.

Another factor is that girl’s values change from believing they can manifest strength to wanting to form relationships. That is, if they are too powerful the group could reject them. The need to be a part of a group is located in the brain’s emotional area or hippocampus, which is directly connected to the executive centers of the brain, thus leading to a need for emotional relationships? With a maturing brain, the need for relationships could be a powerful motivator to conform to the group or to “throw like a girl.”

Whatever the reasons for the dramatic differences in the two groups, it is critical that we do not give in to thinking that girls’ power changes when they reach puberty. Rather, parents need to take heed and continue to reinforce a girl’s self-esteem to continue through puberty and beyond, regardless of what Madison Avenue or society deems appropriate. Bottom line: all girls can throw a ball with strength, if they want to and still be considered feminine or in baseball lingo simply to be a thrower.

For additional information you can contact Dr. David P. Sortino at davidsortino@comcast.net or on his blog: Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Dr. David Sortino.