Adolescents Misperceive Peer Actions

Generic Teen

Are teens misunderstood? Perhaps, but researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill and Stanford University have shown that many teens themselves are incorrect about what their peers are doing in the areas of sex, drugs and studying.

In a study of the perceptions and behaviors of 235 10th-grade participants at a suburban, middle-income high school, five reputation-based groups were identified: socially-oriented “populars,” athletically-oriented “jocks,” deviant-oriented “burnouts,” academically-oriented “brains” and students who were not strongly affiliated with any specific crowd. Students reported their behaviors confidentially, allowing researchers to compare the groups’ actual and perceived behaviors.

Based on what individuals reported, group comparisons clearly resulted in what the study called “gross misperceptions.” The teens were inaccurate about behaviors ranging from the number of cigarettes members of a particular group might smoke each day, to how often other teens had sex, to how many hours a week a classmate might study.

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