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Studies Confirm My Suspicions: Being in Middle School Sucks

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A new study has confirmed what most everyone already knows: There is pretty much nothing good about being a middle school student.

That's not what a new study actually says, mind you. What is says is that middle-school nerds will have the last laugh in the long run. 184 kids from different parts of the United States were followed starting from when they were in seventh and eighth grades until age 23. The results, which appear in the journal Child Development, show that those who engage in romantic relationships, strive to be popular, get into trouble and are perceived by their peers as being cool have more social problems by age 22.

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"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," Joseph P. Allen, the Hugh P. Kelly, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, which led the study, said. "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."

That should be fabulous news for those kids who don't get into trouble, wait until college to get a first date and couldn't care less about the table they sit at in the cafeteria. That is, until you recall another study — one from less than two years ago — that said nerds are actually worse off in the long run compared to the more admired kids.

The sea of hormonal changes coupled with literal and figurative growing pains makes it a brutal few years to navigate.

More than 10,000 men and women who graduated from high school in 1957 were followed for decades by researchers for a Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, and the conclusion was that the more well-liked kids out-earned their geekier counterparts by 2 to 10 percent, even years and years later. Affable teens make for equally sociable adults who are most likely to succeed financially, and the researchers determined that those with enviable relationships in their youth are, in fact, at an advantage to succeed similarly as adults.

From "Mean Girls" to "Stand By Me" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse," not to mention your own memories of not being a little kid anymore while being stuck in seemingly permanent purgatory before you're entitled to any real freedom and privileges — you'd be told time and again that it'll get better, but when you're fighting to stay on top or fighting back so you don't get stuffed in your locked, it's hard to imagine that day will ever really come.

So if you're a middle school kid, which would you rather have: The immediate gratification of lots of friends even if it means the potential for trouble later on? Or would you prefer to be a geek flying under the radar who will probably make less money decades after graduating from high school? Yep, middle school stinks in every which way.

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There's little question that anyone who survives their middle school years deserves a pat on the back, because you have lots of friends or none at all. The sea of hormonal changes coupled with literal and figurative growing pains makes it a brutal few years to navigate. Not helping matters is conflicting information about what's most important, although you'd hope that just working hard and holding tight to your integrity will serve you equally well in the present and future.

Explore More: bullying, middle school, advice, education, body image
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