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Early dating predicts smoking during adolescence: a prospective study

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To examine the relationship between dating and smoking behaviour. Design 

A 5-year prospective study. Setting 

Thirty-six schools in South London, England. Participants 

A socio-economically and ethnically diverse sample of students (n = 4319 at baseline) took part in the study, providing annual assessments from age 11–16 years. Measurements 

Questionnaire items assessed dating status, smoking status, friends and family smoking, psychological wellbeing, popularity and conduct, pubertal status, gender, ethnicity and deprivation. Cotinine assays provided biochemical verification of smoking status. Findings 

At age 11–12, 29% of girls and 18% of boys reported having a boyfriend or girlfriend. Logistic regressions showed being an early ‘dater’ to be a strong predictor of later smoking uptake at each study year, with odds ratios ranging from 3.03 to 8.96 among girls and 1.87 to 5.85 among boys. These associations remained significant after controlling for potential confounding factors, including past smoking and pubertal stage. There was minimal evidence that having smoked by age 11–12 predicted later dating. Conclusions 

The association between early dating and later smoking is strong, and not explained by obvious confounders or dependent on the influence of past smoking experience. The use of smoking to maintain a popular image, and the link between both behaviours and aspirations towards maturity, are potential explanations for the effect. Identification of adolescents dating early could help to target prevention of later smoking uptake.
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Keywords: Longitudinal studies; romantic relationships; smoking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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