The study — conducted by Robert Crosnoe, professor of sociology, and Aprile Benner, assistant professor of human development and family sciences — was grounded on data of 8,271 adolescents from 126 schools as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. It shows that 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.
“This finding doesn’t imply that drinkers would be better off in schools in which peer networks are tightly organized around drinking,” Crosnoe said. “Instead, the results suggest that we need to pay attention to youths in problematic school environments in general but also to those who may have trouble in seemingly positive school environments.”
The study tracked the respondents’ grade-point averages and found a direct link between feelings of isolation and declining grades. The difference between drinkers who felt as though they did not fit in socially in school and their peers could equal as much as three-tenths of a point in GPA from year to year.