Why many “Cool” Kids Wind Up as Troubled Adults

Were you jealous of the “cool kids” back in high school?  Would you believe that YOU may wind up happier than they are?

New research has looked at the so-called “cool” behaviors displayed by middle-schoolers.  It found that although they made kids more popular in the short run, that effect wore off quickly and eventually backfired.

In fact, by early adulthood, the cool kids were more likely to have criminal records, abuse drugs and alcohol, and have troubled relationships.

Lisa Tolin at NBC News, reports on the new study.  She says the world may actually be one big “Revenge of the Nerds.”

Researchers at the University of Virginia looked at what they called “pseudomature” behaviors — trying to act older than you are.  Those behaviors included more romance and “making out,” minor crimes like shoplifting or destroying property, and picking the best-looking classmates as friends.

In middle school, it paid off — kids who engaged in those behaviors were rated as more popular by their peers. But by age 15 or so, they weren’t anymore. And by 23, they had real problems.

They were more likely to do things like abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in drunk driving, get into fights, and show up late for work. They were also more likely to have criminal histories, and were judged by their peers as worse friends.

So why does this happen?   One reason may be an escalation of “cool” over time. The kid who impresses his friends by shoplifting may find those friends demanding more serious crime over time.

Also, “cool” behavior can interfere with more mature development.  For example, kids who have early romantic relationships may spend less time with friends. And if having “hot” friends makes you popular, you may miss out on developing real interpersonal skills.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.