Early friendship with males ups chances of substance abuse in teen girls

March 11th, 2011 - 4:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 11 (ANI): A new study has found that girls who tend to initiate the transition to a mixed-gender friendship network earlier in life are more likely to develop substance abuse problems during late adolescence.

Researchers studied a sample of almost 400 adolescents (58 percent girls), aged twelve to eighteen, from a large French-speaking school district in Canada.

“Peer relationships are considered to be one of the main risk factors for substance use. However, for boys, the formation of other-sex friendships is not associated with later substance use problems. Boys reported receiving higher levels of emotional support from their other-sex friends, whereas girls receive more support from their same-sex friends. It is possible that having other-sex friends is protective for boys because they gain emotional support and are therefore less likely to engage in problem behaviour,” said Dr. Francois Poulin at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

The study finds that among girls, antisocial behavior and early pubertal maturation accelerated the increase in the proportion of other-sex friends.

Since the legal drinking age is 18 in Canada, it may simply be more difficult for younger girls to purchase their own alcohol, thus older boys become one point of access for this substance. The study findings imply that parents may wish to take a more active role in monitoring their daughters’ friendships, especially with older boys.

And by middle adolescence, once this transition has been completed, the impact of other-sex friendships on girls’ maladjustment fades away.

The researchers suggest that future studies should also examine the longitudinal associations between other-sex friends and other outcomes such as educational achievement and antisocial behavior.

The study appears in Journal of Research on Adolescence. (ANI)

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