Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I am in/not in (check one) with the "popular group"

 In this week's Time Magazine, Annie Murphy Paul writes on Life After High School. In this month of high school reunions it is particularly timely. So what are the kids who were in your "popular group" up to these days. As adults are they still enviable and are you still craving their attention?  I'm guessing not. Don't you wish your kids knew now what you know? It would make all the angst and obsession with 'being in the popular group" all go away. It turns out, which of course we already know, that being popular in high school, is just being popular in high school.

This article discusses a number of longitudinal studies. One in particular follows a cohort of people starting in their senior year in high school, all the way to age 50!  In a sentence here are their findings:  "Coveted as they are in high school, brains and popularity get you only so far in the real world. Hard work and development of capacities like conscientiousness and cooperation also matter for success-not to mention personal satisfaction and fulfillment."

As you are well aware there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is more important to your teen than their friends. Their status, the clique they aspire to being part of, and the surety that they will have people who they want to hang with and who want to hang with them is the main concern of every waking moment. But as their article states so clearly, as long as you have a group of friends you will be fine. Maybe it's only one or two. But one or two good friends who share your passion for polka dots, or being"artsy weirdo" as one girl in the article calls herself, can get you through high school and into to the next phase of life where you will really find your place.

I think sometimes parents are as worried about their teens place in the popularity ranking as their kids. I have talked with many parents who wax on endlessly about their own high school years and their place in the "popular crowd", and worry that there is something wrong with their teen because they only have 1 or 2 good friends. Well according to this article: "Popularity isn't entirely positive. Belonging to the cool crowd  is associated with higher rates of drinking, drug use, sexual activity and minor delinquency during adolescence..and higher rates of substance abuse and sexual promiscuity three years after graduation."

So if you have a teen who likes hanging at home, has a couple of friends to hang with when they feel a need for hanging, isn't part of the main stream high school scene, and doesn't seem concerned or unhappy about it, then heed the words of Bobby Mcferrin...don't worry be happy!

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