"Cool" kids don't stay popular forever, study finds

The core cast members of the 2004 hit comedy "Mean Girls." From left, Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Seyfried.
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(CBS) -- Those "cool" kids who were at the top of the popularity food chain in middle and high school may not be so cool by time they hit adulthood -- and are more likely to face challenges with relationship and drugs, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that while teens who prioritized hanging out with attractive people, having romantic relationships, and participating in rebellious activity were seen as popular in high school, that sentiment disappeared by the time they reached their early 20s.

The study, published in the journal "Child Development," followed 184 teens over a ten year period, beginning at the age of 13 (seventh and eighth grade) to the age of 23.

Researchers collected information from the teens, their peers and their parents.

According the study, by the time they reached the age of 22, the once-popular teens were perceived as less competent, and were more likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol.

"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," study co-author Joseph P. Allen, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, said in a news release. "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."

The teens' "pseudomature behavior," as the researchers call it, "predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use, and elevated levels of criminal behavior," the study said.

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