New study sheds light on what happens to 'cool' kids

June 12, 2014

Teens who tried to act cool in early adolescence were more likely than their peers who didn't act cool to experience a range of problems in early adulthood, according to a new decade-long study. The study, by researchers at the University of Virginia, appears in the journal Child Development.

While cool teens are often idolized in popular media—in depictions ranging from James Dean's Rebel Without a Cause to Tina Fey's Mean Girls—seeking popularity and attention by trying to act older than one's age may not yield the expected benefits, according to the study.

Researchers followed 184 teens from age 13, when they were in seventh and eighth grades, to age 23, collecting information from the teens themselves as well as from their and parents. The teens attended public school in suburban and urban areas in the southeastern United States and were from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Teens who were romantically involved at an early age, engaged in delinquent activity, and placed a premium on hanging out with physically attractive peers were thought to be popular by their peers at 13. But over time, this sentiment faded: By 22, those once-cool teens were rated by their peers as being less competent in managing social relationships. They were also more likely to have had significant problems with alcohol and drugs, and to have engaged in criminal activities, according to the study.

"It appears that while so-called cool teens' behavior might have been linked to early popularity, over time, these teens needed more and more extreme behaviors to try to appear cool, at least to a subgroup of other teens," says Joseph P. Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, who led the study. "So they became involved in more serious criminal behavior and alcohol and drug use as adolescence progressed. These previously cool appeared less competent—socially and otherwise—than their less cool peers by the time they reached young adulthood."

Explore further: Teens' struggles with peers forecast long-term adult problems

More information: Paper: Child Development, What Ever Happened To The 'Cool' Kids? Long-Term Sequelae Of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior by Allen, JP, Schad, MM, Oudekerk, B, and Chango, J (University of Virginia).

Related Stories

Teens' struggles with peers forecast long-term adult problems

March 28, 2013
Teenagers' struggles to connect with their peers in the early adolescent years while not getting swept along by negative peer influences predict their capacity to form strong friendships and avoid serious problems even ten ...

Teens who express own views with mom resist peer pressures best

December 22, 2011
Teens who more openly express their own viewpoints in discussions with their moms, even if their viewpoints disagree, are more likely than others to resist peer pressure to use drugs or drink.

Teens use peers as gauge in search for autonomy

May 11, 2011
As teens push their parents for more control over their lives, they use their peers as metrics to define appropriate levels of freedom and personal autonomy. They also tend to overestimate how much freedom their peers actually ...

US teens' cardiorespiratory fitness has dropped in last decade: report

May 28, 2014
(HealthDay)—More and more U.S. teens now fall short when it comes to cardiorespiratory fitness, a new government report shows.

Hispanic teens more likely to abuse drugs, survey finds

August 20, 2013
(HealthDay)—Hispanic teens are more likely to abuse illegal and legal drugs than their black or white peers, a new report finds.

NIDA offers tools for talking to teens about marijuana

May 20, 2014
Two updated booklets about marijuana for teens and their parents will help families sort out marijuana myths from science-based facts. The revamped tools come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the ...

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

Research aims to shape more precise treatments for depression in women

July 27, 2017
Among women in the United States, depression is at epidemic levels: Approximately 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year, and more than 12 percent of women can expect to experience depression ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.