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Teens' Misconceptions Lead to Risky Behaviors, Study Finds

Teens' Misconceptions Lead to Risky Behaviors, Study Finds

Research published in Developmental Psychology finds that teenagers overestimate the amount of drugs and alcohol their friends use, and underestimate the amount of studying and exercise they do as well.

These misconceptions, the study finds, can "lead to teens engaging in potentially risky behavior in order to follow social norms that do not exist," according to an article on

"The behavior of all types of kids are grossly misunderstood or misperceived by adolescents, not just the jocks and the populars but also the brains and the burnouts," said senior investigator Prof. Mitch Prinstein in the article. "Adolescents tend to conform to stereotypes that we have seen in 'The Breakfast Club,' but those stereotypes do not exist as dramatically as we once thought."

According to the article, "in John Hughes' 1985 film, a seemingly disparate group of teenagers - 'a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal' - are placed in detention together, eventually coming to realize that they are all more alike than their stereotyping led them to believe."

For the study, the article said, "researchers assessed the behaviors and perceptions of 235 10th-graders in attendance at a middle-income suburban school. Each of the participants was assigned a reputation-based social group according to a method frequently used in adolescent research. Participants were identified as one of the following:

  • Socially-oriented 'populars'
  • Athletically-oriented 'jocks'
  • Deviant-oriented 'burnouts'
  • Academically-oriented 'brains'
  • Students who had no strong affiliation to any particular group.

"Students defined as populars or jocks were also identified as high-status, as a result of ranking higher in likability than the burnout and brain groups," the article said. "Each participant confidentially reported their own behaviors - including alcohol use, sexual behavior and study time - along with what they perceived the behaviors of their peers to be. This data allowed the researchers to compare the actual and perceived behavior of the different social groups."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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