Research

GSRI conducts groundbreaking studies, releases critical facts and findings, and provides resources essential for the advancement of the well-being and safety of girls living in today’s world. The institute also informs public policy and advocacy for Girl Scouting with its research and outreach.

These efforts not only support the development of the Girl Scout program but also supply accurate information to educational, not-for-profit, and public policy organizations, parents seeking the best ways to help their daughters, and girls themselves.

Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study (2012)
Last year, with the upcoming centenary of Girl Scouts of the USA in mind—the organization turned 100 years old on March 12—the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) looked at the organization’s long-term effects on its girl members. Compared with non-alumnae, Girl Scout alumnae feel better about themselves, are more active as mentors and community volunteers, vote more regularly, are better educated, and enjoy higher household income. This was particularly true for women who’d been long-term Girl Scouts; those who were members for three or more years scored significantly higher in every area than alumnae who were members for a shorter time.

Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (2012)
A high number of teen girls are interested in STEM fields and subjects, and are drawn by the creative and hands-on aspects that characterize these fields. Those who are interested in STEM have well developed internal assets, such as a high level of confidence in their abilities and the ability to overcome obstacles. Many have high levels of adult support and encouragement to pursue STEM careers and have been exposed to what STEM careers have to offer, but some do not. Many girls aspire to STEM careers, but aren’t necessarily choosing STEM careers as their first choice at this time. Girls are interested in making a difference in the world and need more STEM exposure, education, and experience with the help of key adults in their lives in order to see how STEM fields can achieve their goals now and in the future.

Real to Me: What Girls Say about Reality TV (2011)
Reality TV has become staple entertainment for young people and adults alike. In our survey of more than 1,100 girls around the country, we found significant differences between those girls who consume reality TV on a regular basis and those who do not. Of girls surveyed, regular reality TV viewers differ dramatically from their non-viewing peers in their expectations of peer relationships, their overall self-image, and their understanding of how the world works. Our findings also suggest that reality TV can function in the lives of girls as a learning tool and as inspiration for getting involved in social causes.

Who’s That Girl: Image and Social Media Survey (2010)
This nationwide survey, which included more than 1,000 girls ages 14 to 17, finds the increased exposure to social media puts teenage girls in a confusing situation where a girl’s image is not always what it seems, as nearly 74 percent of girls agree that most girls use social networking sites to make themselves “cooler than they really are.” The survey finds that girls downplay several positive characteristics of themselves online, most prominently their intelligence, kindness and efforts to be a positive influence.

Beauty Redefined: Girls & Body Image Survey (2010)
This nationwide survey, which included more than 1,000 girls ages 13 to 17, finds many girls consider the body image sold by the fashion industry unrealistic, creating an unattainable model of beauty. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed say the fashion industry (89 percent) and/or the media (88 percent) place a lot of pressure on them to be thin. However, despite the criticism of this industry, 3 out of 4 girls say that fashion is “really important” to them. These conflicted feelings are further spelled out in the Beauty Redefined factsheet (PDF).

Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today(2009)
Beliefs and values, and their influence on decision making, have commanded significant media and public attention in the new millennium. In particular, it has been argued that youth today are bombarded with media images of less than exemplary role models from professional athletes to politicians. Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today (2009), a national study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) explores what youth today value and how they go about making decisions, based on research conducted with 3,263 3rd to 12th-graders from around the country. This work builds on the Girl Scout Survey on the Beliefs and Moral Values of America’s Children (1989) (PDF), a national study published in 1989 by Girl Scouts of the USA, and paints an encouraging picture about a generation of youth responsible to themselves and to others, and who value diversity, acceptance, and community involvement. It also highlights the important role that adults play in helping girls to actualize their good intentions.

The New Leadership Landscape: What Girls Say About Election 2008 (2009) To determine the impact that the historic presidential election of 2008 had on girls’ and boys’ leadership aspirations, GSRI spearheaded a post-election study immediately following the election.

Change It Up! What Girls Say About Redefining Leadership (2008) presents findings from a national study of over 4,000 girls and boys on leadership with answers to these very same questions and more. The findings bring to light how girls and boys define leadership; their experiences, aspirations, and fears with respect to leadership; and, predictors of leadership aspiration. Gender, race/ethnicity, age, and income are explored in their relationship to girls’ and boys’ leadership aspirations, experiences, and identities. From the evidence of this report, girls are clearly saying that we need to “change it up” in how we define and think about leadership.

The New Normal? What Girls Say About Healthy Living(2006) sheds light on the childhood obesity crisis by asking girls directly how they define health and what motivates them to lead a healthier lifestyle. Findings suggest that today’s girls are defining “health” on their own terms, placing the same value on emotional well-being and self-esteem as they do on diet and exercise. For girls, being healthy is more than just eating right and exercising; it is also about feeling good and being supported by family and peers. The study also highlights the important role that adults, and in particular mothers, play in shaping the healthy habits and self-perception of girls.

Weighing In: Helping Girls be Healthy Today, Healthy Tomorrow (2004) In the last two decades, obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents such that obesity is now the most chronic health problem among American children. Weighing In addresses various underlying causes leading to this epidemic of obesity and being overweight among children and adolescents and the lifestyles, culture, and behavior that have contributed to this condition. This review also focuses on gender and cultural issues in the research, especially with regard to girls’ body image. The main social environments in which girls participate are explored (school, home, etc.) as well as the significant role of media and marketing.

Feeling Safe: What Girls Say (2003) How safe do girls feel? What are the negative effects of girls feeling unsafe? How important are emotional and physical safety to girls? How can adults make girls feel safe? To better understand how girls perceive safety, GSUSA conducted Feeling Safe: What Girls Say, a national (online and focus group) study of over 2,000 girls ages 8-17.