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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Psycho-Social Behavior Pattern of Unmarried Adolescent Girls in Urban Area of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh

Author(s): V Mala, D Kumar, S Dwivedi, SB Dabral

Vol. 32, No. 1 (2007-01 - 2007-03)

V Mala, D Kumar, S Dwivedi, SB Dabral

Adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood in which many interrelated physical, social and psychological changes take place. Adolescent girls in India face several social restrictions, sex discrimination, nutritional deprivation and some other adverse situations unlike those in developed countries. With expansion of telecommunication and media across cultural boundaries, the problems of western societies are also being added up while very little or slow improvement is observed in previously existing ones(1).

The health of adolescents, as well as their development is particularly dependent on their behavior, which is heavily infl uenced by the environment in which they live(2). Psychosocial behavior of adolescents is a complex interaction of psychological growth, social environment, education and exposure to the outer world. It is very important to study different aspects of their psycho-social behavior as healthrelated outcomes are also affected by it. Uttar Pradesh (UP) being a state having annual growth rate of only 2.3% consistently falls below the national standards in health, education and general quality of life indicator(3). The present study was conducted to investigate psycho-social behavior pattern of unmarried adolescent girls in relation to their school education in Allahabad city of U.P.

Material & Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted during November 2000 to October 2001 in urban area of Allahabad, a religious city of eastern UP. With the educational and other parameters being near to that for UP, Allahabad may be representative of the situation of adolescent girls of UP. On the basis of a pilot survey, an overall prevalence of psychosocial problems in adolescent girls was found to be about 30%. Accordingly, a sample of an optimum size of 396 unmarried female adolescents aged 10-19 years was taken with permissible error of 15%. A stratifi ed multi-stage random sampling technique was adopted to select respondents and houseto- house survey was conducted.

Respondents willing to participate in the study whose parents also gave their respective consents were interviewed to collect information on their background characteristics and various aspects of psycho-social behavior on pre tested, semi-structured schedules. New study subjects replaced non-respondents. Respondents were interviewed in privacy and confi dentiality was assured. Co-operation from existing health functionaries and organizations was also taken for conducting the survey.

Data were analyzed using SPSS software package. Chi square test for association of attributes and to test equality of several proportions and normal test of signifi cance for testing signifi cance of differences between proportions in two different groups were used.


A total of 396 adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 years representing 204 (51.5%) low, 98 (24.7%) middle, and 94 (23.7%) high socio-economic strata participated in the study. For the purpose of studying infl uence of school education on psycho-social behavior, respondents were divided into two groups namely ‘school attendees’ and ‘non-attendees’. Girls who were presently attending or attended the schools up to various levels of school education in adolescence phase after age 10 were included in school attendees group. Non attendees group included girls who were either illiterate or dropped the schools before start of adolescence phase and hence were totally unexposed to schooling during adolescence.

Table 1 presents psycho-social behavioral aspects of respondents. Boldness/outspoken was the most preferred quality reported by 156 (39.4%) respondents followed by obedience reported by 146 (36.9%) respondents. Only 11 (2.8%) respondents reported shyness as a preferred quality. Opinion of respondents regarding qualities preferred varied signifi cantly in the two groups. In school attendees group 134 (47.5%) respondents preferred bold/outspoken quality as compared to 22 (19.3%) in non-attendees group. Obedience was preferred by 82 (29.3%) among school attendees as compared to 64 (57.2) girls among non-attendees. The proportion of respondents having bold/outspoken as a preferred quality was found to be signifi cantly higher (p<0.001) among school attendees as compared to nonattendees. Proportion of respondents preferring obedience, as a preferred quality was signifi cantly higher (p<0.001) among non-attendees as compared to their counterparts. Among all respondents, 215 (54.3%) were having positive attitude in adverse situations. The association between attitude in adverse situation and schooling was highly signifi cant (p<0.001). Proportion of respondents having negative attitude was signifi cantly low (p<0.001) among nonattendees as compared to those among school attendees.

Table 1: Psycho-Social Behavioral Aspects of Respondents

Qualities preferred
Shyness 1(0.4) 10(8.8) 11(2.8)
Cultured 63 (22.4) 16 (14.0) 79 (20.0)
Bold/Outspoken 134(47.5) 22 (19.3) 156 (39.4)
Obedient 82 (29.1) 64 (56.1) 146 (36.9)
Others 2(0.7) 2(1.7) 4(1.0)
Attitude in adverse situations
Positive 190 (67.4) 25(21.9) 181 (45.7)
Negative 92 (32.6) 89 (78.1) 215 (54:3)
Relationship with elders
Respectful 183 (64.9) 53 (46.5) 236 (59.6)
Friendly 71 (25.2) 13 (11.4) 84 (21.2)
Fearful 10(3.5) 36(31.6) 46(11.6)
Hesitant 13 (4.6) 7(6.1) 20(5.1)
Indifferent 5(l.8) 5(4,4) 10(2.5)
Preference of future role
Housewife 25(8.9) 46(40.3) 71 (17.9)
Working woman 254 (90.1) 68 (59.6) 322 (81.3)
No response 3 (1.1) 0(0.0) 3(0.7)
Feeling regarding physical changes in body
Not ashamed 164 (58.2) 55(48.2) 219 (55.3)
Ashamed 118(41.8) 59(51.8) 177(44.7)

About 60% respondents reported to be respectful to their elders. There were 183 (64.9%) respectful and 71 (25.2%) friendly respondents among school attendees as compared to 53 (46.5%) and 13 (11.4%) such respondents respectively among non-attendees. The differences between these proportions in the two groups were found to be highly signifi cantly (p<0.001). Respondents in the non-attendees group were more likely to be fearful (31.6%) as compared to those among school attendees (3.5%) and the difference was found to be signifi cant (p<0.01).

Working women was the most desirable future role to be played by 322 (81.3%) respondents. This was the most common choice to be opted by both school attendees (90.1%) as well as not attendees (59.6%) but the difference between the two proportions was highly signifi cant. Signifi cantly higher (p<0.001) proportion of respondents among non-attendees preferred being housewife as a future role as compared to those school attendees. The association between preference of future role and schooling was found to be highly signifi cant (p<0.001).

Among all respondents, 177 (44.7%) reported that they were ashamed of physical changes in their body. It was found that 118 (41.8%) respondents of school attendees group wre ashamed about physical changes in body as compared to 59 (51.8%) such respondents in non-attendees group. The association between schooling and feeling regarding physical changes in the body was found to be non signifi cant (p>0.05).

Table 2 : Respondents reaction to restrictions imposed and other situations

Reaction of
Family Restrictions
Present 245 (86.9) 110 (96.5) 355 (89.7)
Absent 37 (13.1) 4 (3.S) 41 (10.3)
Reaction to family Restrictions*
Feel angry 68 (27.7) 39 (35.4) 107 (30.1)
Feel helpless 27 (11.0) 24 (21.8) 51 (14.4)
Wish to revolt 28 (11.5) 17 (15.4) 45(12.7)
No problem 122 (49.8) 30 (27.3) 152(42.8)
Reaction to failure in life
Ignorance 13 (4.6) 11(9.8) 24(6.2)
Withdrawal 27(9.6) 14(12.5) 41 (10.5)
Revolt 20(7.1) 14 (12.5) 34(8.7)
Angry but silent 32 (11.4) 50 (44.6) 82 (20.9)
Increased efforts 187 (66.3) 23 (20.5) 210 (53.7)
No response/others 3 (1.1) 2(l.7) 5 (1.3)
Menarche Attained
Yes 201 (71.3) 97 (85.1) 298(75.2)
No 81 (28.7) 17 (14.9) 98(24.8)
Reaction on restrictions during menses**
Burden 29 (14.4) 7(7,2) 36(12.1)
Revolt 9(4.5) 5 (5.2) 14 4.7)
Ashamed 15 (7.5) 21 (21.7) 36 (12.1)
No problem 148 (73.6) 64(6 5.9) 212(71.1)
*Among respondents facing family restrictions
** Among respondents already attained menarche

Among all respondents, 355 (89.7%) reported that they faced some type of family restrictions sometimes (Table 2). Non-attendees were more likely (96.5%) to face family restrictions as compared to school attendees (86.9%). Among respondents facing restrictions, 152 (42.8%) reported to take these restrictions normally whereas 107 (30.1%) felt anger and 45 (12.7%) wished to revolt. Helplessness over restrictions imposed was least common reaction reported only by 51 (14.4%) respondents. Non-attendees felt comparatively more helpless (21.8%) as compared to school attendees (11.0%). Feeling angry was the most common reaction on non-attendees (35.4%) whereas maximum of school attendees (49.8%) took these restrictions normally. Reaction to family restrictions was found to be signifi cantly associated with schooling status (p<0.05).

Respondents were also asked about their reaction to failure in life. The most common reaction was that they increase their efforts after facing failure in life. This positive approach was reported more by school attendees (66.3%) as compared to non-attendees (20.5%) and the difference between these two proportions was highly signifi cant (p<0.001). Non-attendees mostly (44.6%) reported that they become angry but remain silent. Ignoring failures was not so common the reported reaction in both the groups.

Among all respondents, 298 (75.2%) have attained menarche. Girls, who had attained menarche, were asked their reactions to various restrictions imposed during menstrual cycle like prohibition to worship (67.1%), restricted entry to kitchen (31.7%) etc. Surprisingly, majority of them took such restrictions normally feeling no problem as reported by 212 (71.1%) respondents. The reaction against the restrictions had highly signifi cant association with schooling status of girls (p<0.0001).


The behavior of respondents reflects the impact of environment in which they live. Exposure to school education may change the environment and thinking of respondents. Present study was conducted to study the psycho-social behavior of adolescent girls and its association with school education. School attendees as well as non-attendees in the present study were mostly respectful to their elders. Schooling education was found to be helpful in changing the preference of qualities. School going girls preferred more to be bold/out spoken as compared to those who were not exposed to school education during adolescence. Quality of being bold/outspoken may not be desired characteristics of adolescent girls according to Indian traditional society norms but it might be helpful for them to cope with some adverse situations.

Exposure to school education also resulted in change of their attitude towards adverse situations and future role. Majority of school attendees were having positive attitude to adverse situations and wanted to be working women in future. This fact shows their desire to come out and become active members of the society with gender equality and they do not want to be suppressed and to remain confi ned to their respective homes unlike non-attendees. Development of positive attitude through school education is also an important desired outcome in favour of girls’ education. With exposure to school education they may adopt better coping mechanism for facing so many psycho-social situations. To become comfortable with their changing body is one of the important features of adolescent’s psychological development(4) but exposure to school education was not found to be helpful in changing their feeling with respect to this phenomenon. This might be due to lack of sexual education in the existing education curriculum. School education was found helpful in developing positive attitude towards future role, respect to elders, and in reducing fearful family atmosphere. However, obedience was more likely to be a preferred quality among non-attendees as compare to school attendees.

Although respondents in both the groups accepted restrictions during menses easily and majority of them had no problem against such restrictions yet the situation was not same with other type of family restrictions. This fact refl ects that the restrictions during menses are taken as a normal tradition but other restrictions imposed may lead to negative reactions. School education was also helpful for creating positive attitude to face failure in life. To become angry and keeping silence on failure was not the most common reaction among non-attendees unlike school attendees who mostly wanted to increase their efforts after failures.

The study concludes that exposure to school education is helpful in reducing some undesired qualities of adolescent girls and also in developing their positive reactions to some normally occurring psycho-social situations. There is an urgent need of promoting education for girls with some modifi cations in the existing system of school education. Their education should make them capable of facing different types of psycho-social situations not at the cost of healthy traditional values of Indian culture.


Authors are highly grateful to the referee for his/her valuable comments for improving this paper. The assistance in typing of the manuscript by Mr. Parminder Kumar, Data Entry Operator in the Department of Community Medicine, Govt. Medical College Chandigarh is also acknowledged.


  1. Friedman H.L. Changing Patterns of Adolescent Sexual Behavior : Consequences for Health and Development. J. Adoles, Health 1992; 13:345-350.
  2. Friedman H.L. The Health of adolescents : beliefs and behavior Soc Sci Med. 1989; 29: 309-15.
  3. The World Bank, Population reference bureau, 2001.
  4. Adams, B.N. Brownstein C.A., Rennols I M. et. al: The pregnant adolescent – a group approach. Adolescence, 11: 1976 467 – 485.

Deptt. of Community Medicine, MLN Medical College, Allahbad,
UP-211 002, E-mail: [email protected]
Received: 06-07-05

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