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Based on research Helms, Sarah W., Choukas-Bradley, S., Widman, L., Giletta, M., Cohen, G. L., & Prinstein, Mitchell J. (2014) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.
Are Teens accurate judges of their peers’ participation in dangerous and risky behaviors? What if they’re wrong?
A psychology study evaluated the perceptions of 200 plus high schoolers. Participants identified which of their peers belonged to which social group: jocks, popular kids, burnouts, or brains. Next, they reported how frequently they believed these groups participated in behaviors such as smoking, drinking, marijuana use, sex, vandalism, theft, studying and exercising. Then they rated themselves on how frequently they engaged in these same behaviors. This allowed researchers to compare the real behaviors and perceptions of these behaviors.
Results revealed participants consistently overestimated how frequently their peers engaged in risky behaviors. While the jocks and popular kids were seen as the most liked and respected, they were also viewed as using more substances, having more sexual partners, and breaking the rules more often. However, their self-reported risky behaviors were much less frequent. Higher perceptions of popular peers’ substance use in Grade 9 significantly predicted greater increases in adolescents’ own substance use in Grade 11. Misperceptions may lead to the teens’ own greater use.
Teens, not everything may be what it seems. Everybody is, in fact, NOT doing it!
Helms, Sarah W., Choukas-Bradley, S., Widman, L., Giletta, M., Cohen, G. L., & Prinstein, Mitchell J. (2014). Adolescents misperceive and are influenced by high-status peers’ health risk, deviant, and adaptive behavior. Developmental psychology, 50(12), 2697.