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Cool Kids Lose, Though It May Take A Few Years

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Parents, teachers and cheesy after-school specials have long tried to convince kids that being cool and popular isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Now scientists are chiming in as well.

Dating, flouting authority and surrounding yourself with good-looking friends may make you popular when you're 13, according to a study published online Wednesday. But don't believe the media hype, psychologists say. Kids who try to act cool in early adolescence are more likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol, and have trouble managing friendships as they grow older. And their popularity tends to fade by the time they're 22.

"We call it the high school reunion effect," says Joseph Allen, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and the study's lead author. "The student who was popular and was running with the fast crowd isn't doing as great later on."

The researchers followed over 180 13-year-olds for a decade, interviewing the teens themselves, as well as their parents and friends. By age 22, the cool group had a 45 percent higher rate of problems related to alcohol and substance use (such as missing work and driving drunk) than their less-cool peers, according to the study, which appears in the journal Child Development. The popular crowd was also more likely to have engaged in criminal activity.

And although the queen bees and homecoming kings acted older than their age in middle school and high school, Allen tells Shots that "by 22 they were seen by their peers as being less socially competent and less mature."

All the study participants attended urban and suburban public schools in the Southeast, and the researchers took into account any influence gender and family income might have had on the results.

Part of the problem, Allen says, may be that as these cool kids grew older, they felt the need to do increasingly extreme things to get attention. "But their friends, as they get more mature, are less and less impressed by those behaviors," he says.

And many media portrayals of life in high school aren't helping damp down the impression that fast is cool, he adds. "What the media does, I think, is it portrays this fast life in very glamorous terms. [It] sets up an expectation that teens should be acting older."

The teenagers in shows like the CW network's The Vampire Diaries and ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars often date or drink much earlier than actual high-schoolers do. Past generations had their own cool kids, the study points out — James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause defined cool in the '50s. And Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 was cut from the same cloth.

Of course, this doesn't mean that any kid's fate is set at 13, Allen says. "It is not a life sentence." But teens should be aware that focusing too heavily on appearance and social hierarchies can be unhealthy, he says. And parents can help by encouraging their teens to aim for fulfillment in the long term over short-term popularity.

"The quiet, not-so-cool kids do well in the long term," Allen says. "I would say I was part of the not-so-cool kids."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

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Comments [4]

Agree about need for research into adult buying trends.

Jun. 12 2014 06:22 PM
tom LI

Perhaps the funniest line in the article, "teens should be aware that focusing too heavily on appearance and social hierarchies can be unhealthy, he says. (this is the actual punch line--->) And parents can help by encouraging their teens to aim for fulfillment in the long term over short-term popularity." (which of course misses that kids are short-term by nature!)

Are you kidding me? Its their parents who either deeply desire their kids to be the cool kids, because they (the parents) were so not! And if their kids are the cool kids, the parents live thru them. And if their kids are showing non-cool tendencies, they seek a means to make them cool! Buy them the latest version of the iPhone (or whatever device is hot) dress them in name brands, and do all they can to push that kid on up the Cool social ladder.

Kids dont know squat about being cool, till they meet the adults in their lives, most of whom are desperately trying to right their past un-cool wrongs! Parents- specifically Boomer Parents - are the worse people for their children to look for guidance in this matter.

The actual really cool kids are still cool adults, as its inherent in the individual, its a trait, not an appearance, or social standing. Cool, real cool cares nothing about any of this, as that's part of what makes them so cool!

What this author and others like them is talking about is the shrill, insecure Bullies who self-label themselves as Cool, and bully everyone into sycophancy. Who likely come from the very same households with adults I mentioned in my first post. Off the shelf Cool buyers. Materialistic crazies who are still angry about their past lack of cool.

Jun. 12 2014 05:33 PM
tom LI

Perhaps the funniest line in the article, "teens should be aware that focusing too heavily on appearance and social hierarchies can be unhealthy, he says. (this is the actual punch line--->) And parents can help by encouraging their teens to aim for fulfillment in the long term over short-term popularity." (which of course misses that kids are short-term by nature!)

Are you kidding me? Its their parents who either deeply desire their kids to be the cool kids, because they (the parents) were so not! And if their kids are the cool kids, the parents live thru them. And if their kids are showing non-cool tendencies, they seek a means to make them cool! Buy them the latest version of the iPhone (or whatever device is hot) dress them in name brands, and do all they can to push that kid on up the Cool social ladder.

Kids dont know squat about being cool, till they meet the adults in their lives, most of whom are desperately trying to right their past un-cool wrongs! Parents- specifically Boomer Parents - are the worse people for their children to look for guidance in this matter.

The actual really cool kids are still cool adults, as its inherent in the individual, its a trait, not an appearance, or social standing. Cool, real cool cares nothing about any of this, as that's part of what makes them so cool!

What this author and others like them is talking about is the shrill, insecure Bullies who self-label themselves as Cool, and bully everyone into sycophancy. Who likely come from the very same households with adults I mentioned in my first post. Off the shelf Cool buyers. Materialistic crazies who are still angry about their past lack of cool.

Jun. 12 2014 05:30 PM
tom LI

A study needs to be done that looks at adults who are desperately BUYING their cool now. Maybe they were not so cool, or nerds, geeks, non-jocks, or just the ones who had to wear off brands due to their parents budgets, or lack of care over how their children looked in those knock offs or hand-me-downs oddities.

These adults who are doing everything they can to look cool in every aspect of their lives. Maybe they buy that model car that is now in re-production - (Camaro, Charger, Mustang 5.0, etc) - or buy $25K Harleys, and all the off the rack Harley labeled appropriate clothes that they wear like a uniform. (but too often the bike is too much for them anyway, and then I buy it from them, and turn it around!)

They adopt a clothing style from their past, a retro style if you will, and that becomes their uniform no matter where they go.

But we all know these adults. The guys who adopt a "look" they couldn't pull off in High School, yet are now making it seem like they were always that James Dean kinda guy. Or the women rifling thru their teen daughters closet and trying to squeeze into them, or worse they buy the adult sized, Mom-sized versions. Or the grandmas wearing those sneaker-platfrom shoes at Home Depot, in their low-rider skinny jeans.

Oh wait...I see this would be a study all about how lame the median Boomer Generation really is now. How they desperately cling to the idea that they can BUY cool off the shelf, and whose main mantra is, "60 is the new 40, 70 is the new 50..."

Jun. 12 2014 05:12 PM

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