Study: ‘Cool Kids’ Don’t Stay Popular Into Adulthood

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File photo of high school students dancing. (credit: VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of high school students dancing. (credit: VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – According to a new study, kids who were “cool” in middle school may not stay popular when they reach their adult lives.

Researchers from the University of Virginia followed 184 teens from age 13, when they were in either seventh or eighth grade, all the way through age 23.

The researchers found that teens that prioritized hanging out with attractive people, having romantic relationships and participating in rebellious activity were seen as popular in middle school. By the time those teens reached their early 20s that sentiment seemed to have disappeared.

Researchers used data they collected from the teens, their friends and classmates, and their parents.

Joseph P. Allen, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, and co-author on this study, told CBS News that he and his team did not want to study “what made teens happy, but rather what made them successful adults.”  He said that they chose to start at age 13 to catch them at the beginning of their adolescence.

Researchers found that what teens considered cool in the 8th grade had peaked by high school.  These are the teens whose highest goal was to “be cool.”

By the time these popular teens reached 22 they were perceived as less competent, and were more likely to have drug and alcohol problems, according to the study.

Researchers noted in the study that “the teens’ pseudomature behavior predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use, and elevated levels of criminal behavior.”

The study was published in the journal Child Development.

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