In our tech-obsessed world, nerd is the new black, and recent research suggests this might be for the best. The Al Bundy stereotype of yesteryear — the once-popular kid who fizzled out after high school — turns out to be a spot on prediction. A study out of the University Of Virginia suggests the same traits that help make any kid popular at a young age can lead to forlorn flameouts who never quite figure out how to adult.
If 13-year-olds wilt under the pressure of their cool kid status, what’s going to happen to kids who are cool before Kindergarten?
The study tracked 184 13-year-olds for 10 years and found that the cooler kids were at the start of the study, the more screwed they were as young adults. How researchers determined social status for the young teens reads like the Justin Bieber playbook: Kids with more sexual experience, more attractive friends, and a greater willingness to engage in minor delinquency like truancy or vandalism were the most popular amongst their peers. Kids displaying this behavior, deemed “pseudomaturity” by researchers, grew up more likely to abuse alcohol and marijuana, engage in criminal behavior, and fail at relationships both romantic and platonic.
None of this may seem relevant to parents of infants or toddlers, whose kids are years away from the social contexts that enable such behavior. Then again, at 5 years old, “fashion icon” Alonso Mateo had 100,000 Facebook fans, and he’s just the most popular in a wave of toddlers who look like they were produced by an unholy union between Lana Del Rey and a J. Crew catalog. If 13-year-olds ultimately wilt under the pressure of maintaining their cool kid status from middle school into their 20s, what’s going to happen to these kids who are already cool before kindergarten?