Revenge of the uncool kids

Whatever Happened to the Cool Kids? asks a University of Virginia study.  If  “cool” is defined as “pseudomature behavior — ranging from minor delinquency to precocious romantic involvement,” then the answer is not so well. At 23, they’re more likely to have trouble with relationships, alcohol and drugs and run-ins with the law.

The ex-cool kids even rate lower in social competence, notes CNN.

To measure coolness, students were asked about their romantic behavior, including how many people they “made out” with. They were asked how many times they had damaged or destroyed property belonging to parents, sneaked into a movie without paying, stolen items from parents or family members, and whether they had used drugs and/or marijuana.

They were also asked how important it was for them to be popular with a lot of different kinds of kids, how attractive their closest friends were, and whom they would most likely spend time with on a Saturday night.

As young adults, to measure social competence, they were asked to describe how well they get along with friends, acquaintances and boyfriends or girlfriends, and whether romantic relationships ended because of concerns that their partner was viewed as not popular enough or not part of the cool crowd.

Jennifer Alsip of Robinson, Texas, was in the “cool group” all through school, she told CNN. “I was there to socialize.” Now struggling financially — ironically, she works trying to collect delinquent student loans — she tells her daughters to “be the bookworm.”

About Joanne


  1. The one-size-fits-all model, the comprehensive HS, really fits many kids poorly and forces into proximity many groups of kids with vastly different talents, interests and goals. Many kids would be happier and better served academically in more-specialized school settings. The “cool kids” may be very disrespectful (or worse) of kids unlike themselves.

  2. The assumption here seems to be that “cool kid” behavior in young teens causes later problems. But maybe this is a non-causal correlation. Perhaps both “cool kid” behavior and later problems reflect the individuals particular genotype.
    In most human societies until the last 5-10,000 years the transition from childhood to adulthood took a few years at most. In modern societies adolescence is greatly prolonged. Although there has no doubt been genetic selection for adaption to longer adolescence there hasn’t been enough time for humans to become fully adapted to the prolonged adolescence of modern societies. So it’s not surprising that adolescence in modern societies is associated to some extent with dysfunctional behavior.

  3. The typical US high school may be a very poor place for many adolescents. It is certainly an extremely unnatural environment given our evolutionary history.

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Can we really trust this study? Isn’t it just confirming the biases/wishes of the uncool kids? Isn’t it likely that the study was organized BY former uncool kids?

    Also, are they differentiating between kinds of ‘cool?’ Or are they conflating the ‘Bad Boy with the Jock who is nice to everyone and president of the SGA? The latter seem to do fine, at least in their home towns.

  5. greeneyeshade says:

    I’ve seen similar observations from a very unlikely pair: Joseph Epstein, who’s written that bullying doesn’t work when you get out of school, and Dan Savage, who tells gay kids who are bullied that It Gets Better.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I recently ran into a couple of girls who were “cool” in middle school and made dd’s life difficult. They are not even out of hs but look like something the cat dragged in. The bloom is definately off the rose, so to speak.