Study: Teenage Popularity Fades by Age 22
Cool kids are more likely to later get into drugs, alcohol, criminal activity
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2014 6:45 AM CDT
Cheerleaders wave as President Barack Obama departs after speaking at Scranton High School in Scranton, Pa., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – The cool kids don't exactly win in the end: Teens who try to be cool by acting older than they are may be setting themselves up for future problems, according to a new study in the journal Child Development. Researchers followed 184 Southeastern teens from ethnically diverse backgrounds in public schools for 10 years starting when the teens were 13. The kids deemed popular by their peers tended to be in romantic relationships, engage in delinquent activities, and hang with the prettiest peers, but by 22 those kids were no longer at the top of the totem pole—and were also more likely to be involved in criminal activities and have serious problems with drugs and alcohol, reports Eureka Alert. They were also judged as being less competent in managing social relationships.

"We call it the high school reunion effect—the student who was popular and was running with the fast crowd isn't doing as great later on," the study's lead author tells NPR. The reason, he surmises, may be that as the cool kids aged, they felt they had to do increasingly extreme things to get noticed, while their peers, who were continuing to mature, were less impressed by those behaviors. The researchers stressed that this doesn't mean being cool at 13 is a "life sentence," but that teens who focus heavily on physical appearance and social hierarchies may be putting all their eggs in the short-term popularity basket instead of the longer-term happiness basket. (Click to read who researchers say is the most important person according to Wikipedia entries.)

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Arthur Vandelay
Jun 14, 2014 4:07 AM CDT
I was a recent immigrant in junior high and did not have money to dress well. Of course I was not popular. The most popular girl ended up being my waitress in Palm Springs, the other popular girl ended up at the laundromat pregnant and with a another small kid. Yep some end up bad. careful who you make fun off they may end up being your doctor.
Jun 13, 2014 5:12 PM CDT
An argument for suicide?
Jun 13, 2014 2:03 PM CDT
I recently talked to a high school teacher and asked if that same social hierarchy existed where he taught. He said his students were not even aware of it. I was surprised but I believe he said that technology has put people on a different field. He said band kids would hang out with athletic kids etc. Most of the "popular" kids I went to high school with started to see their popularity fade as things like grunge started to surface (89-93). The headbanging Metallica clones weren't as high ranked anymore. Besides you talk to most of the so called popular and they would be surprised they were labeled as such. It's the rest of us that give them that high ground. Most of my classmates are well rounded people these days. I have no ill feelings from high school, I was not popular in the least. I was second to last picked in PE.