The types of childhoods you can safely have are quickly dwindling. It’s already pretty well established that getting bullied, if you help it, is a bad idea, seeing as how it leads to all sorts of long-lasting physical and psychological consequences. But you don’t want to venture too far into the ranks of the cool kids, either, claims a new study.
Researchers followed 184 teens from age 13, when they were in seventh and eighth grades, to age 23, collecting information from the teens themselves as well as from their peers and parents. The teens attended public school in suburban and urban areas in the southeastern United States and were from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Teens who were romantically involved at an early age, engaged in delinquent activity, and placed a premium on hanging out with physically attractive peers were thought to be popular by their peers at age 13. But over time, this sentiment faded: By 22, those once-cool teens were rated by their peers as being less competent in managing social relationships. They were also more likely to have had significant problems with alcohol and drugs, and to have engaged in criminal activities, according to the study.
The fact that being a bully actually seems to confer health benefits makes this all the more confusing. With all these mixed messages, then, the only surefire safe path for American adolescents would appear to be one of anonymous mediocrity. And hey, that’s an area in which they’re already excelling.