Boys lead girls to smoke and drink
BOYS are a bad influence on girls when it comes to smoking and drinking, a new study has shown. Females attending mixed-sex schools were more likely to have tried cigarettes and alcohol than those going to girls-only institutions.
The 15- and 16-year olds surveyed were almost twice as likely to have experimented with smoking if they went to a co-ed school, leading the researcher to conclude that male peers exercised a bad influence.
In mixed schools, 61% of girls said they had smoked a cigarette, compared to 34% of all-girlsâ€™ attendees. Similarly, fewer girls educated separately from boys had taken alcohol (73%) in comparison to those schooled alongside boys (88%).
"At the age of 15 or 16, girls at mixed-sex schools are more likely to experiment if there are male peers there," said Maria Curtin, a hospital doctor and author of the study, which is published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science.
The study concluded that "females in mixed-sex schools tended to have earlier exposure to smoking and alcohol consumption than girls of the same age in single-sex schools".
The research was conducted at four schools in Cork, one co-ed and one all-girlsâ€™ school in the city and an example of both types in rural areas. A total of 248 female students were questioned about their alcohol and smoking habits.
As well as those who had tried alcohol and cigarettes, Curtin also found there was a higher proportion of current and regular smokers and drinkers in mixed-sex schools. However, a larger study would be needed to determine if it was statistically significant, she said.
"Girls are more likely to try smoking and alcohol, but they might not necessarily continue with it."
Curtin was prompted to investigate the phenomenon after having attended a mixed-sex school herself, where she noticed there was more smoking and alcohol consumption than at all-girlsâ€™ institutions.
Eleanor Petrie of the National Parentsâ€™ Council, said: "Girls smoke to look cool and also to stop eating." Petrie said the study echoed findings from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency last week "pointing up that girls are very susceptible to male pressure".
Professor Luke Clancy, a consultant respiratory physician and chairman of Ash, said: "More girls smoke so it would also be interesting to see if they are a bad influence on boys. Iâ€™d be surprised if it didnâ€™t work both ways."
Previous research has shown a difference between mixed-sex and single-sex school environments. A study by University College Dublin published in 2002 found classrooms in single-sex girlsâ€™ secondaries had a stronger work ethic and less time for joking and banter than those in boysâ€™ or co-ed schools. Academic achievement was given more priority in girls-only schools and control of dress, demeanour and general behaviour were tightly controlled. Girls regularly outperform boys in most of the main Leaving Certificate subjects, including science and maths.
Overall, Curtinâ€™s study found half of the girls had tried smoking at some stage, 31% had smoked during the past month and 19% were smoking on a daily basis. Four out of five had tried an alcoholic drink, 59% had drunk liquor in the past month and 53% said they had felt drunk in the past year. Up to 80% of those surveyed started drinking between the ages of 13 and 15 years. Bottled spirits with mixers were the most common drink followed by beer.
According to the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs, Irish girls are top of 35 countries for binge drinking. One third of 15- and 16-year-olds said they had engaged in binge drinking in the past month, and 72% said they had been drunk in the past year, compared to the European average of 53%.
It also has been shown that more girls than boys who have experimented with cigarettes become current and regular smokers as they progress through their teens.