It mostly didn’t end well for those cool kids, the ones who seemed to effortlessly be more sophisticated and grown up than anyone else.
A decade-long study has found that teens who tried to act cool in early adolescence were more likely to experience a range of problems in early adulthood
Cool teenagers are often idolised in fiction, such as the movies Rebel Without a Cause and Mean Girls.
However, seeking popularity and attention by trying to act older may not yield the expected benefits, according to the study by researchers at the University of Virginia.
The researchers followed 184 teens from age 13, when they were in seventh and eighth grades, to age 23.
The teens attended public school in suburban and urban areas in the southeastern United States and were from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Those 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 age 13.
But the sentiment faded over time.
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’ behaviour 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, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.
“So they became involved in more serious criminal behavior and alcohol and drug use as adolescence progressed. These previously cool teens appeared less competent — socially and otherwise — than their less cool peers by the time they reached young adulthood.”
The results of the study are published in the journal Child Development.
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