Pubdate: Mon, 15 Sep 2003
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2003 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins


Teenagers in English-speaking countries are turning to drugs because of weak
family influences, European research shows.

A study of almost 4000 15- and 16-year-olds in five European cities has
found much higher rates of drug use in the two English-speaking cities in
the study, Newcastle and Dublin, than in two German cities or in Rome.

One of the study's authors, Dublin-born Dr Paul McArdle, now at Newcastle
University, said the results surprised him.

"I thought Dublin would have some similarities to Rome because of the
strength of what I thought was a family culture, but it didn't. It was the
same as Newcastle."

The comprehensive survey allowed him to slot young people into three groups:
the "studious", who spent a lot of time on their homework and reading; the
"sporty", who played sport and music; and the "sociable", who spent time in
clubs, in each other's homes and on the streets.

Excessive use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes were all highest in the
sociable group and that group was much bigger in the two English-speaking
cities than in the other three.

"Dublin and Newcastle parallel each other, so in some respects those
English-speaking cultures are very similar, even though it galls me to say
so," Dr McArdle told the British Festival of Science in Manchester last

"Peer culture is more influential in Dublin and Newcastle, much less so in

"But family is more important in Rome and less important in the
English-speaking countries."

The survey found that Italian youngsters were more likely to confide in
their mothers, indicating strong family relationships.

They were also more likely to drink in restaurants, whereas the Dubliners
and Geordies "drink in the streets and in parks".

Dr McArdle said the studious and sporty groups were more likely to have
clear plans for their lives and to be working towards defined goals.

"They are less likely to be distracted by hedonistic pursuits."

Having clear goals was related to good relationships with their parents.

"In Mediterranean cultures people are living and socialising much more
within their extended family than we do here," he said.

There was also an issue about education. The top education achievers in
Britain were as good as anywhere, but there was a long tail of

"They are kids for whom the conventional curriculum is boring. They should
be in technical schools, which are on the Continent. We don't have them
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