Maintaining a high grade point average (GPA) is just one of the stressors that adolescents struggle with. How teens handle the issues they face during this emotional time is of concern to some researchers. “Indeed, school achievement is a central normative pursuit for many teens, but adolescence is also a critical stage in the development of alcohol use and depressed mood,” said Nathan D. Shippee of the Mayo Clinic and lead author of a recent study examining the effects of academic stress and gender on alcohol use among teens. “According to general strain theory (GST), the links between achievement, distress, and alcohol/substance use are multifaceted and dynamic. Strain arising from negative relationships and experiences can lead to various types of coping strategies, including behavioral or emotional responses.” The average teen begins drinking by age 14 and more than half of teenagers have already gotten drunk one time by the age of 18. Shippee said, “Thus, teen drinking may function as behavioral coping and compensation for negative experiences; that is, strain may affect drinking frequency directly, rather than operating via increased distress.”
Shippee analyzed data collected from 856 students. The data had been gathered from annual surveys taken each year during the teens’ high school experience, beginning in 1988. His study revealed some significant differences between how the boys and girls coped. “Results implicated behavioral and emotional coping as distinct, parallel mechanisms linking strain, distress, and drinking, and furthermore indicated that girls may be especially vulnerable in these associations (possibly due to their socialization experiences).” The findings also directly linked lower grades to increased drinking. “Perhaps the most telling empirical and theoretical finding appeared in the causal chain of GPA and depression on drinking, and GPA, drinking and GPA on depression, and so on among girls throughout high school,” said Shippee. “It would appear that the GPA-depression-drinking nexus, although modest, appears as a consequential and potentially harmful cycle for girls.”
Shippee, Nathan D., and Timothy J. Owens. “GPA, DEPRESSION, AND DRINKING: A LONGITUDINAL COMPARISON OF HIGH SCHOOL BOYS AND GIRLS.”Sociological Perspectives 54.3 (2011): 351-76. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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