Study Suggests That Long Term, Popular Teens Lose Big

Screenshot 2014-06-16 16.17.09I remember sitting on the floor in my room one night, around 14 years old, sobbing. My mom came in and crouching down, asked what was wrong. I choked out, “I just want to be popular.”

But as this new study shows, not being the popular kid might be best in the long run.

I was a cheerleader, had boyfriends, did well with schoolwork when I actually tried, and had friends — but I never felt like I fit in. I constantly searched for a way to be part of the popular group, and it came with a lot of heartache and unneeded stress.

Thankfully in the years that have passed, I’ve been able to find my own, unique path to becoming someone I truly like. What’s more is, I like what I do. So how do we pass that feeling on to our kids earlier? It’s something I wonder about often now that I have a daughter of my own. Is there a way to like who you are without caving in to the peer pressure to conform and fit in? Are our brains mature enough to comprehend that before we steer down a path that is hard to get away from?

The tender ages for this seem to be around 13, according to the study which follows 184 children between the ages of 13 and 23. Although attempting to be “cool” and mature beyond their years often caused problems immediately, the affects continued long term. The children and young adults studied were predicted to have “long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use and elevated levels of criminal behavior.” (Allen, J. P., Schad, M. M., Oudekerk, B. and Chango, J. (2014), What Ever Happened to the “Cool” Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12250)

So how do we combat this in our own kids?

1. Spend time with your kids.

It’s not a fix all, but spending more time with your kids definitely has unarguable benefits.

2. Help them handle rejection.

Can your child deal with the many “no thanks” that will come their way in life? If they can deal with this early on, it helps later with friends.

3. Don’t equate popularity with power.

Many of us still have the mindset that many friends = success. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world are more introverted. Encourage your child to have a wide variety of interests both with people and on their own.

4. Encourage them to work and be involved.

Meeting people outside of school, and of different ages, can give your kids a different perspective on their life now and the future.

Photo: flickr creative commons — commercial.


Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working Moms, Still Standing Magazine, She Reads Truth, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Smaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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