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The Peers and Levels of Stress (‘PaLS’) Study was set up to investigate links between pupils’ peer group status and levels of stress, and their relationships with mental health and health behaviours like smoking. In particular, our focus is on peer group hierarchies and pupils’ positions within them. Thus, we are just as interested in the consequences of being at the top of the ‘pecking order’ (e.g. popular or influential) as on the effects of being at the bottom (e.g. being bullied or isolated). This is the first time such a study has been undertaken in the UK. 

‘PaLS’ is part of the Youth Programme, and funded by the UK Medical Research Council, a government-funded but independent body. The study was approved by Glasgow University, all relevant local authority education departments, and by the head-teachers of all the schools involved. Permission for individual pupils was obtained from parents and participating pupils also completed consent forms.

In order to collect data for ‘PaLS’, we surveyed pupils in the final year of statutory education (Scottish Secondary 4 – S4, aged 15) in 22 schools in and around Glasgow City between January and March 2006.