05 Oct Using Drugs to Stay Popular at School
Popularity in school is often established in the first days of kindergarten. Children quickly recognize which of their peers have tennis shoes with the most current licensed character or whose mom brings the fanciest cupcakes for the child’s birthday. As the school years go by, however, there are more complicated factors that go into which children retain their popularity with the group.
A new study says that drug and alcohol use is not just about deviant behavior. It’s about being cool. According to researchers at the Universite de Montreal, there is a strong correlation between popularity and consumption. Lead researcher Jean-Sébastian Fallu says that the kids they examined were popular in their school, well-accepted, and possessed a keen sensibility about the factors that go into popularity and the compromises that may be involved.
The researchers recruited 500 French-speaking students and interviewed them at three intervals: at ages 10 to 11, 12 to 13 and 14 to 15. They examined the popularity of the child and their friends and also logged their use of alcohol, marijuana and drugs.
The findings of the study indicated that across all popularity levels, there was an increase in consumption as the participants got older. The more popular a child and their friends were, the more they consumed. A two-fold increase was evident in children between ages 10 and 15 that were very popular and had very popular friends. However, when a child was popular but his friends were not, the same trend did not exist.
The results show that there may be a higher risk for teens that are not only popular, but also have popular friends. Fallu says that the research did not show consumption being used as a means to be accepted by a group, or as a way to increase popularity, but there was a definite trend of using to maintain a popularity level. Using becomes more about remaining well-liked than increasing popularity.
The authors of the study caution that kids who are not popular are still at risk of developing other deviant behaviors. Lack of popularity is not a guarantee of a smooth transition to adulthood. However, research has shown that teens that are not popular are more likely to develop problems with violence than use alcohol or drugs.
The study’s findings may be useful in educating parents and teens about the risk of pressure to use drugs and alcohol as a way of maintaining popularity. Schools may even be able to target popular teens with leadership skills and educate them about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol in order to promote awareness among teen social networks.
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