As every adolescent knows, trying to “be cool” is the utmost priority. Whether you want to be a rebel without a cause or a mean girl, certain things never change. However, new research out of the University of Virginia claims that the effect of being cool is short-lived. In fact, “cool” teens were more likely than their peers to face certain issues as early adults.

Following teens from age 13 to age 23, researchers collected information from the teenagers themselves, as well as their parents and teachers. Many of the behaviors that led individuals to think others were cool were socially mature behaviors. Teens who were involved in dating relationships, those who engaged in delinquent activity, and those who hung out with physically attractive people were considered popular by their peers at age 13. However, by age 22, those same individuals were rated by their peers as being less competent at managing social relationships.

Those who were cool at 13 were also more likely to have addiction issues and engage in criminal activity as they aged. According to researcher Joseph P. Allen, PhD, the behaviors that made teens appear cool in early adolescence had to become more and more extreme in order to be seen as cool as they aged, leading to more serious criminal behavior and alcohol and drug abuse. By the time cool teens reached adulthood, their more extreme behaviors were no longer seen as cool, but instead led others to think they were less competent and, thus, less cool.

The full study appears online in Child Development.
Dance classes, which have long been seen as simply an extracurricular activity, may have an important influence on the mental health of teenage girls. According to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, teenage girls who took dance lessons reported reductions in their stress levels and psychosomatic symptoms – and these results stayed consistent even 20 months later.

In a randomized trial, girls from age 13 to 18 years with internalizing problems were enrolled in an 8-month-long dance intervention. According to self-reports, 91 percent of the teens reported improvements in their health status and deemed the dance class a positive experience.

One hundred and twelve Swedish girls participated in the study. They all had a history of visits to the school nurse for psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., pain in the head, stomach, neck) or persistent negative affect or tiredness. Half the girls attended twice-weekly 75-minute-long dance classes; the control group was given free movie passes during periodic interviews. The girls’ health problems were not addressed during the dance class.

The teens were interviewed on topics of health, emotional distress, psychosomatic symptoms, negative affect, depression, sleep, and more. Those in the dance group saw reductions in self-reported stress at 8-month and 12-month follow ups compared to those in the control group. Most teens (i.e., 87 percent) also reported good or very good health at the 12-month follow-up. At the 20-month follow-up, the intervention group still reported reductions, well after their dance lessons had ended.

To read more about this study, visit the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.