Adolescents have a reputation for refusing to conform, and that may even extend to bad behavior. According to astrologer Alex Trenoweth in a research article published by the American Federation of Astrologers, adolescents are more likely to misbehave during the new moon than the full moon, standing our notions about full moon ‘lunacy’ on their heads.
Trenoweth, who is a teacher in addition to being an astrologer, researched the records of student behavior problems at a school for adolescents in the United Kingdom. In studying more than 8,000 incidents, she found some surprising results. Rather than finding that reported incidents spiked at the full moon – as we might expect – she discovered that there was an increase around the time of the new moon. Using official records from two school years, Trenoweth demonstrated that the increase was consistent.
In popular culture, it is often assumed that the full moon is a time of increased activity and a kind of frenetic energy. On average, people sleep about 20 minutes less per night during the time of the full moon, an impressive deviation from the typical night’s sleep. Trenoweth emphasizes that her study only applied to adolescents. Her hypothesis is that adolescents, who have irregular circadian sleep patterns to begin with, get more sleep more during the new moon cycle, leaving them with available energy to get into trouble.
In her review of the literature, however, Trenoweth notes that the data on crime, suicides, and accidents are not entirely consistent with increased incidents at the full moon in the general population. In fact, some studies show that both new and full moons show an increase in these extremes of behavior. Other factors also come into play: for example, fatal traffic accidents tend to spike when there is a new or full moon that lands on a weekend.
Another possibility is that the moon affects each gender differently. The correlation of the lunar and menstrual cycles is well known, and some studies have shown that women and girls are more likely to exhibit extreme behaviors during parts of the lunar cycle (though not necessarily the full moon). In her study, Trenoweth found no differences between girls and boys, although about 75% of the behavior incidents were by boys.
Eclipses were also included in Trenoweth’s analysis. Among astrologers, the assumption is sometimes made that eclipses, which occur on new or full moons, are especially likely to bring about extremes of behavior. Yet again, the data point in a different direction. Eclipses didn’t have any effect in Trenoweth’s study. Another factor, the latitude of the new moon, was significant, however, and the higher the new moon in the sky, the greater the incidence of reported behavior.
Are there practical applications to this study? Trenoweth thinks so. She cautions schools that rather than putting on extra staff and heightened security around the full moon, it may be more productive to do so around the new moon: with adolescents finally getting a good night’s sleep, trouble may be brewing.