Young People 'Talking Not Taking' Drugs
20% of teenagers say their mates pretend to take drugs, according to new research by the free and confidential drugs helpline, FRANK
Almost half of UK teenagers (49%) say the need to fit in with their 'tribe' dictates their group's behaviour, according to new research by FRANK, the free and confidential drugs helpline, with a fifth of teens claiming that peer pressure leads their friends to pretend to take drugs to look 'cool'.
The FRANK report asked over 1,000 11-18 year olds across the UK about their tribe, and the ways in which they present themselves as part of the group, from their music tastes, dress sense and hairstyles to their attitudes to drugs. The research uses data from youth experts, dubit to identify ten current leading teen tribes in the UK; Academics/Geeks, Gangstas, Goths, Indies, Moshers, Scallies, Skaters, Sporties, Townies and Trendies.
The research shows that so-called 'presentation' tactics are used by all members of teenage tribes. Dr. Peter Marsh, Director at the Social Issues Research Centre, and co-author of the FRANK report, says:
"Like their tribal ancestors, teenagers today learn to understand who they are by defining themselves through social bonds and affiliations with a peer group. As they make the hormone-laden journey from child to adult, they forge a personal identity by first creating a social identity. Music tastes and appearance are the obvious ways to define oneself, but the ways in which young people talk about themselves to their peers also helps them to create a sense of self. To be an individual, we first need to be one of the lads or lasses."
Key findings of the research include:
- Boys are twice as likely as girls to say that they have taken drugs when they have not
- 17% of 11-13 year-olds, 21% of 14-16 year olds and 22% of over-16 year olds think their friends pretend to have taken drugs when they haven't
- The influence of the tribe decreases as teens grow up: 51.5% of 11-13 year olds said that members of their 'tribe' did things in order to fit in with the group, compared to 47% of those aged 14-16 years, and 41% of over-16s
- 5% of 11-13 year olds, 60% of 14-16 year olds and 44% of those over 16 felt that young people try drugs to 'impress friends'. Another popular reason was to 'look cool' – over 55% of the sample – while 15% of those aged 14-16 years felt that it helped young people to 'pull'
- Teenagers living in the South East were more prone to 'talking up' their behaviour than teenagers from other parts of the UK
- The most self-aware and image-conscious group is that of the 'Gangstas', characterised by their love of hip hop stars like Eminem, sports brands and 'bling'. The Gangsta tribe is most likely to say that their taste in music influences their personal appearance, at 72%. They are also the most likely to 'talk up' their drugs misuse, at 35%. This compared with an average of 23% within the 11-18 year old age group, and 9% of Academics/Geeks and 19% of Scallies
- The Dubit sample indicates that the widest variety of tribes are to be found in the South East with the majority of Indies, Moshers, Sporties, Trendies, and Townies all coming from the region, 'Geeks' or Academics and Scallies predominating in the North West, Gangstas based mostly in London followed by the South East, while Skaters are largely based in the Midlands and Goths in the Eastern Counties.
Report prepared by Peter Marsh – August 2004