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Girls hang out, but boys stay home

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  • Girls hang out, but boys stay home

    By Roger Dobson
    25 January 2004


    Teenage girls are drinking, smoking and taking drugs in greater numbers than ever before in a role reversal that has seen them overtake boys for bad behaviour.

    Ground-breaking research by social scientists has found that in just one generation, the number of 15-year-old girls who smoke has more than doubled; the number of drinkers increased fourfold (putting them ahead of boys); and the number using drugs has increased by six times - putting them level with boys. While girls are reading less, are more likely to go to the cinema and more likely to go out "nowhere in particular", boys are reading more, shopping more and staying in more, research by the Medical Research Council and Glasgow University found.

    "It would be easy to read this as meaning that the girls have now emerged from their bedrooms and have joined the lads - ladettes," the report says. "However, while the girls have arrived at the street corner, the lads have left it."

    The results portray a generation of young women who have grown up free of the constraints faced by their mothers. Lifestyle magazines and media role modelshave made it increasingly acceptable for teenagers to ditch the traditional hobbies of reading, knitting and dressmaking.

    Dr Helen Sweeting, who led the study, said: "Until the last couple of decades of the 20th century, the leisure time of teenage girls was more likely to revolve around their homes or the shops while boys were more likely to go out. Reduced constraints on female behaviour have resulted in both greater social freedom and more equal opportunities." The researchers compared two generations of teenagers, 12 years apart, from the same geographical area in and around Glasgow. Research on the first group was completed in 1989 and more than 3,000 teenagers contributed via interviews and questionnaires.

    "Females' greater visibility in the public arena and increasing risk-taking behaviours such as substance use represent the lifting of the constraints of respectability on young women's lifestyles," says the report. "These changes have been rapid and havesignificance in both social and health terms. Until the 1990s, the literature on youth leisure characterised that of females as home-based,passive and largely absent from male-dominated subcultures."

    The reports says that hanging round the street and going to discos or clubs were related to higher rates of smoking, drinking and drug use. Reading, doing hobbies and playing computer games were linked to lower rates. Girls are now more likely than boys to "go out nowhere".

    "At the earlier survey, rates of ever [having smoked] and current smoking, and drinking did not differ by gender ... 12 years later all rates were higher among females," the report adds. "Decreases in reading among females, accompanied by slight increases among males are also consistent with suggestions that home-based activities have reduced among girls and young women."

    Boys'increased time spent playing computers and watching sport on television "corresponds with the observation that boys' and young men's leisure has been domesticated by new media technologies", the report says.

    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/thi...p?story=484524
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