Girls Are Smoking and Drinking Earlier Than Boys: High Social Competence

Article excerpt

Washington -- Girls experimented with alcohol and cigarettes at a younger age than did boys in one longitudinal study, Judy A. Andrews, Ph.D., reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Prevention Research.

This finding comes from the Oregon Youth Substance Use Study. The study assessed whether 1,075 boys and girls began to use alcohol and/or cigarettes at different ages and whether risk factors present in elementary school predicted early use of alcohol and/or cigarettes in middle school, said Dr. Andrews, the study's principal investigator and a research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, Eugene.

The children (535 males, 540 females) enrolled in the study between first and fifth grades. Students were assessed once yearly in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

By self-report, 20.6% of girls had tried cigarettes by seventh grade, and by eighth grade, the percentage had increased to 35.5%. In contrast, 17.6% of boys had tried smoking by seventh grade and 22% had done so by eighth grade, Dr. Andrews said. The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Girls are also more likely to drink alcoholic beverages at younger ages than boys. A total of 67.7% of eighth-grade girls reported they had tried alcohol, compared with 62% of eighth-grade boys.

Alcohol use among girls increased sharply between seventh and eighth grade.

About 50% of seventh-grade girls reported alcohol use, compared with 67. …