BOOK REVIEW: Girls On the Edge by Dr. Leonard Sax

In Girls on the Edge Sax discusses four factors that are driving our girls down a path of self-destruction. In Boys Adrift you learn that males can be quite lazy. However, in Girls on the Edge, Sax shows how the will to succeed causes girls pain and anguish. Some would term his observations old-fashioned but it’s hard to argue with his plainly stated research. Gender roles, when based on facts and figures, carry a great deal of weight. To be clear, different does not mean inferior as some may assume. The idea that men and women are exactly the same will someday be old fashioned.  I believe Sax’s work is a trend towards embracing our differences as men and women which in the long run will strengthen both sexes and subsequently our families. 

The first factor is that of sexual identity. The chapter consisted a lot of what I expected; the over-sexualization of young girls and that the sexual empowerment movement has led many girls to be disempowered. If girls aren’t given the proper direction, their sexual identity will look to be fulfilled in ways that will leave them dissatisfied, emotional wrecks. The world tells them to be sexual; that it’s the only way they’ll be accepted. You as the parent must notice this and protect your daughter.

The second factor he calls the cyberbubble. In this chapter he discusses how social networking (ie facebook, myspace, etc) and the cell phone have driven girls into their own unfulfilling worlds where they look for something and get a lot but find nothing of substance. Parents whose girls are suffering because of this social cyber-world look for answers in prescriptions when all that really needs to be done is limiting time online.
Thirdly, Sax discusses obsessions. We expect a lot of our girls and they work extremely hard at numerous activities. Because of the changes in our world these last fifty years our girls have been given the green light to succeed with the talents they have been given and this is tremendous news. However, many go so far as to risk injury and well-being. How good is good enough? Some girls and their parents don’t know so they never quit. Sax discusses the dangerousness of this and presents real world examples that could save your daughter’s life.
The fourth factor, like in Boys Adrift, discusses environmental toxins. Sax asks and answers questions that may still leave you wondering, but his facts make sense. Whatever you believe after reading about the dangerous chemicals in your daughters lotion, something is going on when girls are hitting puberty at age 8. Also, can a man cause his daughter’s puberty to delay until a more appropriate time? According to Sax it is likely.
In the final portion of the book Sax discusses your daughters mind, body, and spirit in an unpretentious manner. I appreciate this as it enables a person of any faith or creed to consider what they want for their daughter. His method for these final chapters will cause all parents to wonder on a level beyond sports and school just what they are doing for their daughters growth and development.
Sax does speak from a point of view (POV) of someone who lives in a large metropolitan area. He talks about moving your daughter to another school if it doesn’t work for her. Not many have this option. Also, his experience seems to come largely from preparatory schools that an average parent would have no idea about. While I have a tough time relating to his POV, his research is rock solid. You will just have to adapt it to your situation. 
Some reviewers have complained of few practical actions Sax offers and that the book is more theory. This is true but the practicality comes as he discusses patients and what worked for them and their parents. I’m a counselor and loved the book as it helped me understand the teen girls I work with and particularly my own daughter. Tactics for parenting are very useful, but Sax answers a lot of “why” questions about teen girls and this is invaluable.

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