Teenage popularity tends to fade by age 22, a new study says. In fact, those kids who try to be cool by acting older are more likely to get involved in drugs, alcohol and criminal activity later in life.
The study published in the journal “Child Development” says flouting authority, dating and surrounding yourself with attractive people may make you popular at age 13, but these people have trouble managing friendships as they get older.
"We call it the high school reunion effect," Joseph Allen, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and the study's lead author, told NPR. "The student who was popular and was running with the fast crowd isn't doing as great later on."
Researchers followed more than 180 13-year-olds for 10 years. They interviewed the teens, their friends and their parents. They found that short term popularity does not predict long-term happiness.
By age 22, the cool kids had a 45 percent higher rate of alcohol and substance abuse problems than their less popular counterparts. The popular group was also more likely to engage in criminal activity.
Researchers say the media is partly to blame for creating false expectations.
"What the media does, I think, is it portrays this fast life in very glamorous terms,” Allen said. “[It] sets up an expectation that teens should be acting older."
He says that the homecoming kings and queens fall from grace and “by 22 they were seen by their peers as being less socially competent and less mature."
He suggests that the reason they fall out of favor could be because they tend to do increasingly extreme things for attention.
"But their friends, as they get more mature, are less and less impressed by those behaviors," he said.
"The quiet, not-so-cool kids do well in the long term," he added. "I would say I was part of the not-so-cool kids."