Is being competitive a good or a bad thing when you’re a teenager? Well, a bit of both actually: competing to win is detrimental to girls’ social relationships and was linked to higher levels of depression, whereas this was much less the case for boys. However, competing to excel is beneficial to the well-being of both genders.
A new study by Dr. David Hibbard from California State University and Dr. Duane Buhrmester from the University of Texas at Dallas finds that the influence of competitiveness on psychological well-being and social functioning in adolescents depends on both the type of competitiveness and the teenager’s gender. Their findings are published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.
Competitiveness can be both a virtue and a vice. One person’s win can be another person’s loss and the drive to be better than others, when taken too far, can appear ruthless and selfish. Consequently, competitiveness may have social and emotional downsides and its effects are likely to differ for males and females. Indeed, research shows that competitiveness is rated both as more typical of adult males and as more desirable for males than for females.
To date, the implications of competitiveness for males and females during late adolescence—a time when high school seniors are looking to assert their identities for jobs that involve varying levels of ambition and competition, while at the same time working to establish close friendships and romantic relationships—have not been investigated fully.