The "ladette culture" of rowdy, boisterous young British girls is on the rise, according to a new study.
Girls were more likely than boys to smoke, drink, take drugs, and display violent behavior, the study said. The study was conducted by questionnaire in schools under exam conditions and was similar to an 1985 survey involving high school students. The results were then used to contrast today's behavior.
The term "ladette" has mostly been associated with post-school-age young women. More recently there have been concerns about high school girls becoming ladettes. This so-called culture -- a female incarnation of the lad stereotype associated with rowdy pub drinkers and football fans -- has fueled concern that young teenage girls are becoming more like boys in adopting bad habits.
The concept has been surrounded by media hype and has led to a significant rise in binge drinking.
"The bad news is that 20 years ago boys drugged, drank, smoked, truanted, stole, vandalized and fought more than girls," said lead study researcher Colin Pritchard, professor at Bournemouth University's Institute of Health and Community Studies, in a statement. "Today it is very different. Girls now significantly smoke and binge-drink more than boys. They truant, steal and fight at similar rates to boys but have started under-aged sex earlier than boys."
A similar study by DataMonitor in 2005 predicted that alcohol consumption among young women in the United Kingdom would increase by almost a third in five years.
Many argue that the alcohol industry and its outlets have done little to slow down binge drinking habits and have contributed to the rise in anti-social behavior in England. Some critics have warned that the relaxation of alcohol licensing laws and the ready availability of free bargain drinks mean young girls are actively encouraged to engage in reckless drinking.
Pritchard also said that nearly a third of girls in their early teenage years admitted to binge drinking. Parents and teachers are concerned about how much alcohol girls consume and the consequences of such behavior on their safety.
"Most parents are, like, 'You can drink, but not too much,'" said Latoya Stevens, a 17-year-old admitted binge drinker. "So, some of us take liberties by drinking as much as we can when we are with friends. It's just crazy. You don't get many chances to let your hair down."
Many young girls argue that binge drinking is just a fun part of one's social life. Pritchard said his latest study on ladettes was an attempt to reach out to parents.
"The cycle of educational and societal alienation must and can be broken to enable parents and schools to work together to contribute to children's educational, social and emotional well-being," he said.
The study also found that the number of boys who admitted to smoking had nearly gone down by half while the number of girl smokers had doubled.
The study suggested an improvement in the overall behavior of boys. This has raised concern that young girls are putting their future health at risk by binge drinking. Doctors have already reported increased cases of alcohol-related liver disease in young people, but there are also other health risks. Mouth and throat cancers among women are thought to be more likely the result of smoking and drinking heavily.
Thirty-one percent of girls were also far more likely to have sex compared to 17 percent for boys.
It is not all bad news. Pritchard suggested girls might be expected to behave differently today than in the past. Therefore, girls are now more badly behaved than boys.
"The good news and, perhaps unexpected, is that the 2005 youngsters we studied have less problematic behavior than those in a 1985 cohort -- and even with the problematic behavior, drugs, drink and sex, this is still a minority activity," Pritchard said.