The football captains and prom queens may rule the world for the few short years of high school, but as we know from pop culture and real life, the popular kids often become the washed up townie losers who reminisce about their teenage glory years in the town dive bar. Now, thanks to a new study, there's some science to back up that stereotype.
Researchers at the University of Virginia found that kids who were considered popular and tried to act "cool" during their teenage years tended to experience more problems in early adulthood as a result of their behavior. They followed 184 teens for a 10-year period, from age 13 to age 23, gathering information from the participants themselves in addition to their parents and friends.
“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, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who led the study.
These extreme behaviors included alcohol and drug use, along with serious criminal behavior. The once-popular kids were also considered to be less socially competent than their peers by the time they reached age 22.
The way that "the cool kids" are portrayed in the media and in pop culture is a factor, said Allen.
"What the media does, I think, is it portrays this fast life in very glamorous terms. [It] sets up an expectation that teens should be acting older," he told NPR.
So before you start taking cues from the Mean Girls of the world, remember: it doesn't always pay to be cool in high school.
Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.