Rather than gaining "liquid courage" to let loose with friends, teenage drinkers are more likely to feel like social outcasts, according to a new sociological study.
Published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the study shows alcohol consumption leads to increased social stress and poor grades, especially among students in schools with tightly-connected friendship cliques and low levels of alcohol abuse.
The researchers found a correlation between drinking and feelings of loneliness and not fitting in across all school environments. But these feelings were especially significant among self-reported drinkers in schools where fellow students tended to avoid alcohol and were tightly connected to each other. When not surrounded by fellow drinkers, they are more likely to feel like social outcasts.
"This finding doesn't imply that drinkers would be better off in schools in which peer networks are tightly organized around drinking," said Robert Crosnoe, a lead researcher, and professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. "Instead, the results suggest that we need to pay attention to youth in problematic school environments in general but also to those who may have trouble in seemingly positive school environments."