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‘Cool Kids’ May Be Less Likely to Succeed

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Kids who are popular and “cool” in middle school do not necessarily achieve as much success by age 23 as their less popular peers, according to a new study published in the journal Child Development.  More from CNN on what researchers call the “revenge of the nerds” effect:

Remember the kids who tried so hard to be cool — the ones who had boyfriends or girlfriends before everyone else, started partying earlier than most other kids their age and made a point of moving with the physically attractive crowd? Well, coolness at 13 does not translate into success by age 23, according to the study by researchers at the University of Virginia published in the journal Child Development.

Those cool kids were more likely to have bigger troubles later in life, according to research released Thursday, which was conducted over a 10-year span. As young adults, they were using 40% more drugs and alcohol than the “not so cool” kids and were 22% more likely to be running into troubles with the law.

When their social competence as adults was quantified (which included how well they got along with friends, acquaintances and romantic partners), the teens considered cool in middle school received ratings that were 24% lower than their less cool peers.

“Long term, we call it the high school reunion effect,” said Joseph Allen, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, who led the study.

“You see the person who was cool … did exciting things that were intimidating and seemed glamorous at the time and then five or 10 years later, they are working in a menial job and have poor relationships and such, and the other kid who was quiet and had good friends but didn’t really attract much attention and was a little intimidated is doing great.”

“It’s … revenge of the quiet, good kids,” he added.

Image: Cool kids, via Shutterstock

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