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Smoking out 'dirts' and 'hotshots.' (psychological study on smoking associated with a Wisconsin junior high school students)

Smoking out 'dirts' and 'hotshots'

If you want to prevent and reduce cigarette smoking among junior high school students, say two psychologists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, target the "dirts" and the "hotshots." These unflattering labels refer to adolescent peer groups with a surfeit of smokers.

Peter Mosbach and Howard Leventhal directed interviews of 341 seventh- and eighth-graders in a rural community. The students identified four peer groups at school. "Dirtballs" or "freaks" (shortened to "dirts" by the researchers) were mainly boys who smoked, used other drugs, were poor students and engaged in a variety of problem behaviors. "Hotshots" were popular and academically successful, "jocks" had a strong interest in organized sports, and "regulars" were described as not belonging to any group and typical of junior-high students. These categories closely match those recently identified by other researchers in a big-city junior high school.

Dirts and hotshots made up 15 percent of the sample but accounted for 56 percent of the smokers, report Mosbach and Leventhal in the May JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY. Smoking is one of several behaviors, that attract dirts to one another and helps satisfy a need for risk-taking and excitement, say the researchers. Dirts usually begin smoking before junior high, and are relatively self-confident and unconcerned about smoking's health dangers. Hotshots, on the other hand, are mainly females who seek excitement and achievement but are uncertain of their acceptance by others. Social pressures at school are likely to generate smoking among hotshots, who nevertheless believe that smoking is harmful.

Smoking prevention programs, as well as research into new antismoking strategies in the schools, should focus on dirts and hotshots, assert Mosbach and Leventhal.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 11, 1988
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