Popular teenagers are more aggressive and sexually active than their less popular peersPublished 3 July, 2012
Corresponding author: Eddy H. de Bruyn
Amsterdam, NL. Teenage popularity dramas fill an entire genre of movies and television shows. Students across countries and cultures rank their classmates according to popularity. Across species ranging across cockroaches, squirrels, and humans, males with higher status have better mating opportunities.
An international team of researchers examined popularity and its behavioral correlates among young adolescents in their early teens. “If popularity ranking orders exist in all societies, evolutionary psychologists argue that it must serve a functional purpose. This purpose is invariably related to mating and reproduction,” says lead author Eddy H. de Bruyn.
The researchers studied 381 adolescents aged 14-to-15 years at two secondary schools in The Netherlands to determine what characteristics distinguish popular and unpopular students in they ways they behave and dress. They noted several contrasting patterns: Popular boys are often aggressive, unfriendly, bossy and rude to teachers compared to those who are less popular; popular girls are also unfriendly, bossy, extreme gossips and also very rude to teachers compared to those who are less popular; also popular teens are more attractive and dress more fashionably compared to less popular teen.
“Popularity is all about sex. When you’re a popular boy, aggression is used to beat rivals and impress the girls. When you’re a popular girl, you use gossip about other popular girls to ruin their reputation, making them less interesting for boys. And of course, the popular girls use their prettiness to attract the boys.” notes Dr. de Bruyn.
Popular teens have sex much earlier than less popular classmates, three times as many popular teens have had sex by this age as the school average. Very few unpopular kids have had sex.
“Dominance-popularity status, behavior, and the emergence of sexual activity in young adolescents,” is published in Evolutionary Psychology and is available at:
Co-authors are Antonius H. N. Cillessen of Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and the University of Connecticut, and Glenn E. Weisfeld of Wayne State University.