"Cool" kids don't stay popular forever, study finds

The core cast members of the 2004 hit comedy “Mean Girls.” From left, Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Seyfried.

Paramount Pictures

Those "cool" kids who were at the top of the popularity food chain in middle school may not be so cool by time they hit adulthood -- and are more likely to face challenges with relationships and drugs, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that while teens who prioritized hanging out with attractive people, having romantic relationships, and participating in rebellious activity were seen as popular in middle school, that sentiment disappeared by the time they reached their early 20s.

The study, published in the journal "Child Development," followed 184 teens over a ten year period, beginning at the age of 13 (seventh and eighth grade) to the age of 23.

Researchers collected information from the teens, their peers and their parents.

Study co-author Joseph P. Allen, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia told CBS News that researchers didn't want to study "what made teens happy, but rather what made them successful adults."

Allen said they chose to start at the age of 13 to catch the teens at the beginning of their adolescence.

What researchers found was that the kids considered cool in the 8th grade had already peaked by the time they reached high school.

For these teens, being popular was their highest goal, Allen said.

According the study, by the time they reached the age of 22, the once-popular teens were perceived as less competent, and were more likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol.

The teens' "pseudomature behavior," as the researchers call it, "predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use, and elevated levels of criminal behavior," the study said.