School Environments Influence Youths

Thus, a new study suggests, teachers who succeed in creating a positive environment in school may be responsible for their pupils staying smoke-free. Marion Henderson, who led the study of 5092 pupils from 24 Scottish schools, explains: "The social environment of schools, in particular the quality of teacher-pupil relationships, pupil's attitude to school and the school's focus on caring and inclusiveness, all influence both boys' and girls' smoking habits."

The research team found that, on average, 25percent of males and 39 percent of females aged 15 to 16 reported that they either regularly or occasionally smoked. Also, they found that current school-based anti-smoking interventions are largely ineffective. "Most focus on individual characteristics rather than the environment in which adolescents smoke. Our research has shown that this environment acts to either encourage or discourage smoking", Henderson says.

'School effects' refer to school-level variations in smoking that remain once other individual influences have been taken into account, such as whether pupils smoke before joining, whether they live with both parents and their amount of personal spending money. The research team found there were clear school effects that could be explained by pupils' attitudes towards school, quality of teacher-pupil relationships and school-level affluence.

Henderson concludes: "Our results suggest that investing in the social environment of schools and endeavouring to make school a positive experience even for less academically able pupils may have the potential to reduce smoking rates, particularly for boys.”; Source: BioMed Central