Report Roundup

Teenagers Often Get Wrong Idea About Peers' Behaviors, Study Finds

"Adolescents Misperceive, and Are Influenced By High-Status Peers' Health Risk, Deviant, and Adaptive Behavior"

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Teenagers overestimate how often their peers participate in risky sexual and drug-related behaviors, and those misperceptions may cause them to adjust their own behaviors, adapting to social norms that don't actually exist, a study has found.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stanford University, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands used peer interviews to cluster a group of high school students into five peer groups—socially oriented "populars," athletically oriented jocks, deviant-oriented "burnouts," academically oriented brains, and students who were not strongly affiliated with any specific crowd. Students confidentially answered questions about their own behaviors related to sex, drug use, and criminal conduct; and how often they studied or exercised. Students also estimated how often peers in the other groups took part in each of the same behaviors. Among the findings:

• Students in the popular crowd reported that they had smoked 1.5 cigarettes a day in the past month, but their peers, inside and outside the popular group, thought they had smoked three. Similarly, jocks reported little or no smoking, but peers estimated they smoked one cigarette per day. And burnouts reported smoking two or three cigarettes a day, while their peers put the number at a half or a whole pack.

• Peers assumed jocks binged on alcohol more frequently and had more sex than jocks self-reported.

• Peers also overestimated how often burnouts smoked marijuana, shoplifted, and damaged property.

• Students in the brainy group reported studying about half as long as their peers estimated.

Vol. 34, Issue 17, Page 5

Published in Print: January 14, 2015, as Teenagers Often Get Wrong Idea About Peers' Behaviors, Study Finds
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories