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Teenagers find ways to have a ball

25 April 2013

Financial disadvantage does not necessarily prevent pupils from taking part in American-style high school proms, according to research carried out by the Universities of Bath, Lancaster and Stirling.

Whilst the study found that pupils from low-income families spent less than the UK average of £400 on their prom, it also revealed that a variety of personal and social coping strategies were used to ensure their access to the prom.

Funded by the British Academy, the study involved in-depth interviews with adolescent males and females from five secondary schools in the North of England.

“These teenagers did not necessarily perceive themselves to be disadvantaged and were able to use the resources available to them to overcome financial shortfalls,” explained Professor Maria Piacentini from the Department of Marketing at LUMS.

“They used their experience and social networks to reduce the cost associated with prom. Items for prom were often found online at a fraction of the retail price and extended family members were able to assist with beauty treatments and products.”

The study revealed that whilst less affluent adolescents decided to forgo hiring a limo – suggesting this was not central to the event – outfits, hairstyles, spray tans and accessories all formed part of their preparation for the prom.

Interestingly, the researchers found that schools had strategies in place to overcome financial concerns, with a number of schools dedicating class time and school facilities to dressmaking – enabling pupils to make their own prom dresses.