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Krieg Barrie

From cool to cold

Science | A long-term study finds middle-school popularity often doesn’t end well

Issue: "China's abortion regime," July 26, 2014

The kids who were “cool” in middle school aren’t so cool anymore. That’s what researchers found in a new study examining the social status and behavior of 175 young people, ages 13 to 23, over a decade. Teens who impressed their friends in middle school because of their daring, sometimes rebellious behavior ultimately developed more social problems later on.

The study tracked male and female adolescents beginning at age 13, asking them about what researchers called “pseudomature” behaviors, such as whether they had “made out” with boyfriends or girlfriends, snuck into a movie theater without paying, or stolen inexpensive items. Researchers also examined whether they sought out the most attractive classmates as friends. Kids who engaged in these behaviors were often rated as very popular by their friends.

When the subjects reached their early 20s, though, researchers followed up, asking similar questions. It turned out the popularity of kids who engaged in pseudomature behaviors in middle school faded quickly as they grew older. By early adulthood their peers rated them as poor at handling friendships and romantic relationships. Worse, they were 22 percent more likely than others to commit serious crimes, and 45 percent more likely to experience problems related to alcohol or drug use.

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Published online in Child Development in June, the research suggests an early drive to gain popularity eventually leads some adolescents to more extreme, unhealthy behaviors. Kids who grew up well-adjusted—even if they were unpopular while younger—probably benefitted from time spent not impressing peers but developing healthy friendships with them.

Refining the oil ban

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The Obama administration has taken a step toward reversing the long-standing ban on exporting oil from the United States. In June The Wall Street Journal broke news that the Commerce Department had given two U.S. energy companies permission to export a type of ultralight oil called condensate—composing up to 13 percent of oil extracted from shale rock through fracking. Administration officials quickly claimed they made “no change in policy on crude oil exports,” since the condensate will have to be partially processed (though not refined) before being shipped. But one analyst described the new policy as a “historic shift.” Some in Congress have called for a total repeal of the ban, established during the 1970s Arab oil embargo. —D.J.D.

Obamacare hike

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Americans who gained insurance under the new healthcare exchanges are sicker than expected and will need to be subsidized by higher premiums, according to insurance data from the first three months of 2014. The Wall Street Journal, compiling data from healthcare technology company Inovalon, reported 27 percent of people who saw a doctor after obtaining new coverage under Obamacare had serious illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or mental disorders. By comparison, only 16 percent of patients with individual plans in 2013 had a serious illness. People with new Obamacare plans were also older and more likely to visit the doctor. Private insurance providers had expected an increase in sick enrollees, but some found the total to be greater than anticipated: To balance their costs, they said they plan to raise premiums by up to 25 percent next year. —D.J.D.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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