Girls perceive more performance pressure than boys

© Hollandse Hoogte / Marcel van den Bergh
Almost half of teenage girls in the Netherlands regularly or frequently feel pressure to perform because of internal expectations. The proportion is lower among boys: 3 in 10. Likewise, internal pressure is more often felt by female (7 in 10) than by male young adults (over 5 in 10). External pressure (from others) is also being felt less often by boys than by girls. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of the ‘Perceptions 2021’ survey.

The Perceptions survey was conducted among 12 to 24-year-olds between early February and mid-April 2021, during the third wave of the coronavirus crisis. Over 8 thousand young people participated in the survey.

Perceived pressure to meet internal expectations, 2021
 Frequently (%)Regularly (%)Occasionally (%)Never (%)
12-17 yrs
12-17 yrs
18-24 yrs
18-24 yrs

Perceived pressure grows as young people get older

On average, more than half of the 12 to 24-year-olds often or regularly experience internal pressure to match their own expectations. Young adults (18 to 24 years) place higher demands on themselves than teenagers do (12 to 17 years) and among the latter, internal pressure grows with age. For example, 27 percent of the 12 and 13-year-olds often or regularly experience internal pressure; this goes up to 60 percent among the 18 to 21-year-olds, and to 63 percent among the 21 to 24-year-olds.

Perceived pressure to meet internal expectations, by age, 2021
 Frequently (%)Regularly (%)Occasionally (%)Never (%)
Total young population25.
12-13 yrs7.919.349.023.8
14-15 yrs14.922.747.115.3
16-17 yrs22.926.437.413.3
18-20 yrs30.330.131.87.9
21-24 yrs32.930.429.17.5

Expectations of others

The pressure to match other people’s expectations is felt slightly less often compared to the internal pressure, as reported by 40 percent of the young respondents. External pressure becomes greater with age as well, albeit less significantly. One third of the teenagers often or regularly perceive external pressure, while among young adults the share is 45 percent.

Perceived external pressure, 2021
 Frequently (% of young people)Regularly (% of young people)Occasionally (% of young people)Never (% of young people)
Total young population17.722.439.320.7
Teenagers (12-17 yrs)13.419.539.927.1
Young adults
(18-24 yrs)
Teenage boys7.717.442.532.5
Teenage girls19.421.837.321.6
Young men15.922.142.519.4
Young women25.626.835.112.4

Pressure from parents and society felt most strongly

When asked about external pressure, most young people indicate this as coming from their parents and from society (both cited by 31 percent). There are some differences between teenagers and young adults. Of the teenagers, 35 percent perceive the pressure to perform well from teachers. The parents are also mentioned relatively often (by 30 percent). Among young adults, external pressure is most often felt from society (over 40 percent) and, similar to teenagers, from the parents (32 percent).

Among those in education (secondary/tertiary), a share of 33 percent indicate they perceive pressure from their teachers. Of the young people in work (excluding those with just a side job), 36 percent report feeling pressured by their co-workers or their manager.

Sources of perceived external pressure, 2021
Van wieTotal (% of young people)12-17 yrs (% of young people)18-24 yrs (% of young people)
Friends m/f18.617.819.2
Sports coach,
sports trainer
No answer10.412.48.9

More internal pressure at higher education levels

Self-induced pressure among young people is also connected to level of education. At HAVO, VWO, HBO and university level, students place higher demands on themselves. In secondary education, 26 percent of VMBO students in the basic vocational programme often or regularly perceive internal pressure; this is 46 percent among those in pre-university education. Furthermore, in secondary vocational and higher education, the share of students who often or regularly feel internal pressure goes up from 52 percent among the MBO students to 73 percent among the university students. The pressure they perceive from others hardly correlates with the type of education.

Perceived internal pressure by education level, 2021
OnderwijsFrequently (% of young people)Regularly (% of young people)Occasionally (% of young people)Never (% of young people)
Secondary education,
12-17 yrs
VMBO basic vocational /
vocational learning track
VMBO combined /
theoretical learning track
MBO and higher education,
18-21 yrs
University (WO)43.13023.83.1

How were these figures obtained by CBS?

The results were taken from the Perceptions survey that was conducted from early February to mid-April 2021. Based on a sample that was drawn from the Personal Records Database (BRP), CBS asked young people aged 12 to 24 years to complete an online survey on how they self-perceived their well-being, stress level and the impact of the coronavirus crisis. To ensure that the group of respondents reflected the entire young population of the Netherlands, a correction was applied to the results to take into account factors such as sex, age, migration background, educational enrolment and country region.