Is Popularity Worth the Struggle?


The average middle school student walks in the hallway heading to his first period class. Along the way, he sees his peers hang out in the halls talking behind peoples’ backs and spreading rumors. Around his school, the student sees vandalism and even young teenagers smoking. Being popular by hanging out with groups or fitting into trends – is it worth it?


“Sometimes being in these groups can have a positive affect on people,” says Ani, an I.S. 25 student. “but also a negative.” Research has been recently showing that popularity can increase social and emotional skills but can increase peer pressure and even depression not only among themselves, but with the peers around them as well.



It Can’t Always Be THAT Bad!

Even though teenagers experience a lot of encouragement of not joining certain groups, not all of them can be influencing delinquency and bad actions. Dina Castrogiovanni from Oberlin College states that some friendships with peer groups can affect them when having similar relationships as adults such as being social and choosing future careers. Teenagers can define themselves with their personality and even find their own interests.

Not only can popularity help a teenager find something worthwhile in their teen years, but they can increase social skills among other peers. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center states that a study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can mean that adolescents can achieve emotional maturity. Those adolescents are able to get over their emotions more easily. Also, they can get along with parents and other students.

The Downfall

Popularity can be seen through an outside view by peers. TeenagersToday.com says that students spread rumors or tell malicious lies to be recognized by their peers. It can leave the affected teenagers feel like nothing. Hostility and aggressiveness also have been shown among teenagers. High school teacher Liz Maurin says, “Kids resort to behavior that borders on dangerous just to get attention or break into a clique. They’ve learned how to manipulate situations and words just to be popular.”

Peer pressure can have negative effects when it comes to encouraging drug usage or drinking alcohol. Many students are influenced under their peers or peer groups to engage in these risky behaviors both directly or indirectly. A study at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania shows that popularity is sometimes gained by risky behaviors or attitudes. About 75% of teenagers think that others are seen as popular by taking drugs, drinking or gambling. Drinking can kill many brain cells while smoking can ruin the lungs in which people breathe in as well as the people around them. “Since popular kids shape the norms that influence the attitudes and behavior of their age,” says Maurin. “this combination of popularity and accessibility (to drugs) is a dangerous mix.”


What About Parents?

Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and the author of Raising Kids with Character, encourages parents to allow children to be independent and make some of their own decisions within certain boundaries. Children should be kept safe and should learn how risky behaviors are not acceptable but must be allowed to make some decisions for themselves. Dr. Berger says strict rules that parents enforce are going overboard. It is recommended that at the child’s “tween” ages, they should be trusted to act responsibly and maturely. Parents should offer help and confidence as well as helping their child see what is right, not just so doing it leads to approval of adults.

Teens Can Help Themselves Too

Teenage students don’t have to be with the “it” group. They don’t have to keep up with fads and trends. “I honestly think that if it doesn’t make you happy just to be popular, it’s not worth it,” says Ani. Making friends can still build social relationships and skills as well as self-esteem. “Everyone has their own uniqueness and individuality,” says Tim, a student. “I think it doesn’t make much of a difference if we can still socialize with good friends instead of the ‘popular’ ones and still be ourselves.”