In sixth grade I was known as the girl with the frizzy hair. I was not cool or popular, but to this day, I've attributed my general kindness to strangers to my days of being teased in middle school. Yes, it may have stunk when I was going through it, but I came out a better, tougher person, right?
Last week my awkward middle school memories came flooding back when I read a new Swedish study claiming that kids who are unpopular in middle school are more likely to have health issues later in life.
"The kids no one wants to work with in sixth grade may be at a health disadvantage as adults," according to the study.
How in the world, do you ask, did they come to this theory? In 1953, researchers asked a group of sixth graders to name the three classmates they liked working with the most. The kids were then ranked by popularity based on how many times a child was named by their classmates. The classification researchers used went like this:
"Favorite" kids = at least 7 nominations
"Popular" kids = 4 to 6 nominations
"Accepted" kids = 2 to 3 nominations
"Peripheral" kids = 1 nomination
"Marginalized" kids = no nominations
Decades later, researchers checked back in on the now-50-year-old subjects and here is what they found: the "marginalized" sixth graders were about twice as likely as those who were "favorites" to have been hospitalized for conditions like mental health disorders, alcohol abuse, accidents, and nutritional disorders.
The study doesn't show why the unpopular kids were more likely to be hospitalized, nor does it attempt to explain why the "marginalized" kids were unpopular in the first place -- frizzy hair, maybe. But either way, the results left me pondering what you would think.
Take a look at your own life: were you popular in middle school and healthy now? Or were you on the uncool side and feel unhealthy? Do you worry about your own middle schooler being unpopular in fear that it may lead to health issues as an adult? Or are you too disgusted by children being labeled "marginalized" and "peripheral" to think clearly on the subject? Because that's OK, too.