Teen Social Success Linked to Their Own View of Popularity

A new study from the University of Virginia suggests that the way teens view their popularity is as equally important as their true social standing.

  • A new study was conducted at the University of Virginia in order to compare peer-rated popularity to perceived popularity in teens. The researchers of this study also looked at how both types of popularity may influence a teen’s long-term social success. Many adolescents deal with extensive anxiety over how much they are liked and accepted by their peers, however, there has been very little research conducted on this issue to see the developmental importance of social acceptance. The study, conducted by psychologists from the University of Virginia, researched a group of 164 adolescents (aged 13 years old) and found that one year after the original survey, the now 14 year olds who originally reported that they felt they fit in (even if their peers did not rate them as popular) were much less hostile, and were generally better liked than the teens who reported themselves as being outsiders. The teens that reportedly fared the most poorly over time were those who both felt left out and who were actually left out as far as preference-based popularity goes. Researchers say that this study shows that the way teens view their own social standing is just as important as their real popularity as rated by their peers. The results of this study also show that during adolescence, when it becomes possible for teenagers to choose their own social networks, it is possible to be socially successful among peers without necessarily being broadly popular.1

    1"They Like Me, They Like Me Not”: Popularity and Adolescents’ Perceptions of Acceptance Predicting Social Functioning Over Time, Child Development, Vol. 79 No. 3 June 2008, pp. 720-731

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