Researchers found that popular young teens had plenty of social benefits but were also more likely to get into trouble with alcohol, marijuana, or minor delinquent acts during the yearlong study.
"Popularity with peers was found to play a multifaceted role in early adolescence," say University of Virginia psychology professor Joseph Allen, PhD, and colleagues in the May/June issue of Child Development.
That is, popularity was positive in many aspects, but it often meant obeying the group's more shadowy values, too.
The teen years are notorious for their intense social pressures. It's a time when many young people are testing their wings, somewhere beyond childhood but short of full adulthood.
Popularity is at the heart of Allen's study. Participants were 185 seventh- and eighth-grade students from one middle school.
The group of 87 boys and 98 girls was 58% white, 29% black, and 13% from other or mixed ethnic backgrounds. The students' close friends and mothers were also included.