What Happened to that Cool Kid In High School?

The cool kids in school don’t necessarily turn out to be the winners in life. If you have ever attended a high school reunion—or seen the wonderfully silly Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion—you already know this and new research explores why. An article based on a study in The New York Times, entitled “Cool at 13, Adrift at 23″ captures the “pseudomature” behavior of fast-track kids:

“At 13 they were viewed by classmates with envy, admiration and awe. The girls wore make-up, had boyfriends, and went to parties held by older students. The boys boasted about sneaking beers on a Saturday night and swiping condoms from the local convenience store. They were cool. They were good-looking…”

You know the type. They were the ones smoking behind the gym at recess, holding court in the cafeteria and sneaking out at night. They reigned socially. Over time, however, their popularity and success didn’t endure. In a study, entitled What Ever Happened to the “Cool” Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior, researchers followed a sample of 184 adolescents from ages 13 to 23 and found that the cool kids didn’t turn out so well. In fact, early pseudomature behavior predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships and significant problems with alcohol and substance abuse. Particularly at risk were those who highly valued being popular and for whom status among peers was most important.

Parents take note. All too often parents push for their children to be popular. Hoping to be thought of as cool by their child, trying to save their child from their own “uncool” adolescence, mistakenly believing that being cool is a predictor of future success, whatever the reason, parents sometimes go out of their way to make their children part of the “in crowd.”

As the research shows, this isn’t a good idea.  A New Yorker blog post offers a hilarious take on what happens to those who peak early in Eloise: An Update. This is how it begins:

I am Eloise


I am forty-six

I am a city girl


I live at the Crowne Plaza

There is a lobby with purple lights and silver-and-gold confetti things hanging from the ceiling


You can find videos of the elevators on YouTube

The absolute first thing I do in the morning is make coffee in the bathroom and check to see what’s on pay-per-view

Relax if your son or daughter prefers reading a book or watching a movie at home on a Friday night. As Bill Gates famously said:

“Be nice to the nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman