From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

School and Peer Group Influences on Health

Note that these studies were conducted as part of the Youth and Health programme which formally ceased at the end of March 2010, although team members have continued to prepare publications in this research area.

Schools are seen as key environments in which to promote young people's health. This research theme aimed to provide evidence in relation to the health promoting school (HPS) concept by studying variation in pupils' health between schools and reasons for such variation. Building on research in education, it investigated whether there are differences between schools in pupils' health and health behaviours after taking account of pupil intake ('school effects') and, if so, what distinguished schools with better and worse outcomes.

A related theme focused on the role of the peer group both in relation to health and health behaviours, and as one possible explanation of school effects. The topic involved analyses from the 11 to 16/16+ study, bolstered by sociometric techniques used in a related study called ‘Teenage Health in Schools' (THiS), and the PaLS study which provided the opportunity to investigate the effect of school and peer group hierarchies on pupil stress and health outcomes.



West P, Sweeting H, Young R. Transition matters: pupils' experiences of the primary-secondary school transition in the West of Scotland and consequences for well-being and attainment. Research Papers in Education 2010;25:21-50

open access  


Henderson M, Butcher I, Wight D, Williamson LM, Raab G. What explains between-school differences in rates of sexual experience?. BMC Public Health 2008;8:53

pubmed  open access  


Henderson M. School effects on adolescent pupils' health behaviours and school processes associated with these effects [PhD], MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 2006.

Pearson M, Sweeting H, West P, Young R, Gordon J, Turner J. Adolescent substance use in different social and peer contexts: a social network analysis. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy 2006;13:519-536

Steglich C, Snijders TAB, West P. Applying SIENA: an illustrative analysis of the co-evolution of adolescents' friendship networks, taste in music, and alcohol consumption. Methodology: Journal of Research Methods for the Behavioral and Social Sciences 2006;2:48-56

Sweeting H, Young R, West P, Der G. Peer victimization and depression in early-mid adolescence: A longitudinal study. British Journal of Educational Psychology 2006;76:577-594


Turner K, West P, Young R, Gordon J, Sweeting H. Could the peer group explain school differences in pupil smoking rates?. Social Science & Medicine 2006;62:2513-2525


West P. School effects research provides new and stronger evidence in support of the health promoting school [editorial]. Health Education 2006;106:421-424


Henderson M, West P, Raab G.. School effects on health behaviours. Education and Health 2005;23:57-60


Gordon J, Turner K. The empowerment principle: casualties of two schools' failure to grasp the nettle. Health Education 2004;104:226-240

Turner K, Gordon J, Young R. Cigarette access and pupil smoking rates: a circular relationship. Health Promotion International 2004;19:428-436

pubmed  open access  

Turner K, Gordon J. A fresh perspective on a rank issue: pupils' accounts of staff enforcement of smoking restrictions. Health Education Research 2004;19:148-158

Turner K, Gordon J. Butt in, butt out: pupils' views on the extent to which staff could and should enforce smoking restrictions. Health Education Research 2004;19:40-50

West P, Sweeting H, Leyland AH. School effects on pupils' health behaviours: evidence in support of the health promoting school. Research Papers in Education 2004;19:261-291

Young R, Sweeting H. Adolescent bullying, relationships, psychological well-being, and gender-atypical behavior: a gender diagnosticity approach. Sex Roles 2004;50:525-537

open access  


Gordon J, Turner K. Ifs, maybes and butts: factors influencing staff enforcement of smoking restrictions. Health Education Research 2003;18:329-340


Gordon J, Turner K. School differences in pupil smoking: a consequence of a trade-off between health and education agendas?. Health Education Research 2003;18:580-591


Pearson M, West P. Drifting smoke rings: social network analysis and Markov processes in a longitudinal study of friendship groups and risk taking. Connections: bulletin of the International Network for Social Network Analysis 2003;25:59-76

open access  


Gordon J, Turner K. School staff as exemplars: where is the potential?. Health Education 2001;101:283-291

Sweeting H, West P. Being different: correlates of the experience of teasing and bullying at age 11. Research Papers in Education 2001;16:225-46

open access  


Pearson M, Michell L. Smoke rings: social network analysis of friendship groups, smoking and drug-taking. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy 2000;7:21-37


Michell L, West P. Peer pressure to smoke: the meaning depends on the method. Health Education Research: Theory and Practice 1996;11:39-49