Teens who try to act cool in their adolescence often face a wide range of problems when they reach adulthood.
Being the cool kid on the block is every child's dream. Television and the media have also played their part in popularizing the notion of the "coolest kid in school." However, trying to be popular in school by acting older than your age can have many negative consequences later, a new study finds.
For the new study, researchers at the University of Virginia followed 184 13-year-old teens till they reached the age of 23. During this time, the researchers gathered information about each participant's personality from the teens themselves as well as from their parents and peers. There were quite a few common trends the study authors noted. Participants who were romantically involved at an early age as well as those that hung out with attractive people in school were considered popular and "cool."
However, this sentiment faded with time. Once the participants reached 22 years of age, the same individuals who were considered "cool" as teenagers were looked upon as being less competent in managing social relationships, according to their peers. Such teens were also found to have more drug and alcohol problems as adults. They were also more likely to engage in criminal activities.
"It appears that while so-called cool teens' behavior 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," said Joseph P. Allen, lead author of the study, in a press statement. "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."
Researchers didn't determine the exact mechanism behind this. However, one speculation is that the problems arise because these individuals fail to garner the same kind of attention as adults as they did when they were teens. This leads to frustrations, forcing them to resort to drugs and alcohol.
Findings were published online in the journal Child Development. The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health.