Study: “Cool” Kids More Likely to Be Unhappy Adults

A new study suggests that being one of the "cool kids" in middle school isn't so cool in the long run. Researchers have discovered that the so-called popular kids are 45 percent more likely to have relationship and drug problems as adults, according to

To conduct their study, Joseph P. Allen, a University of Virginia psychology professor, along with his team, looked at "cool" behaviors in 184 seventh and eighth graders, including "making out," shoplifting, destroying property, and choosing the best-looking classmates as friends.

These behaviors paid off in middle school when the kids were perceived as more popular by their peers, but not in the long run. By age 22 or 23, this group had 45 percent more problems than their less popular peers with alcohol and substance abuse, including drunk-driving, getting into fights, and chronically showing up late for work. And more of them had criminal histories. They also tended to blame romantic break-ups on status, feeling relationships had ended because of their own lack of social clout.

Researchers concluded that kids who are preoccupied at a young age with status convince themselves that they have to do certain things to fit in, and are generally less able to control impulses. Their behavior can escalate over time and crowd out mature development.

Allen says it's normal to adopt some of these behaviors in adolescence, but parents should be concerned if a 13- or 14-year-old is having romantic relationships or shoplifting. Wanting to be an accepted part of a group is normal, but comes with intense pressures that parents should be aware of. The researchers speculate that teens who act "cool" actually end up with fewer social skills because they did not learn more positive ways of interacting with other people.

Photo: Getty