A study that was published this month in the journal Child Development came to the conclusion that the cool kids from junior high end up being the marginalized adults by the time they reach their early 20’s. Apparently, cool younger kids only hang out with the best looking kids and often run with older kids (because that is really cool) who may be a bad influence- and experiment with drugs and sex and get into petty crime because they think it’s cool or perhaps it’s another way to stand out.
According to the study, as they move into high school, their popularity quotient drops as other kids are more focused and serious and more mature about school and being responsible. This leads the once cool kids to struggle to try and find a way to fit in more and when they can’t- they often start to become marginalized and drift towards the kids who are less stable and mature. Over time, this worsens and by their 20’s they are often high school drop outs, have a criminal history, and/or are underemployed or unemployed and drifting.
The theory behind why is rather simple- they miss out on important developmental phases and experiences that their uncool peers get to have. This leaves them socially and psychologically delayed- which of course has nothing to do with IQ.
Several things came to mind when I read the study. The first is child actors/musicians who grow into dysfunctional young adults- think Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber to name only two of many. They grew up way to fast and took on adult roles before they were emotionally and developmentally ready. By the time they reached their early 20’s, they were missing some critical experiences that would have prepared them for being responsible adults. Now both struggle with substance abuse and criminal behavior.
I also thought about all the young adults who struggle to set and keep goals, stay in school, hold down jobs- and have healthy relationships. They are often attractive, charismatic and intelligent- but just can’t seem to get their act together. Were they cool kids once? Are bad boys often ex cool kids and is this why they just can’t get it together in their relationships and make healthy commitments?
If you were one of the quiet ones, painfully shy, a geek or a nerd or just more of a loner- it looks like now is your time to be cool. You went through all those difficult adolescent stages with your eyes wide open and you learned a lot along the way. For anyone who is planning to attend a school reunion soon or who has the opportunity to connect with old schoolmates online- don’t rule out any uncool kids from your past. According to this study- they could hold the great potential for a healthy relationship and satisfying partnership.