Why You And Your Middle School BFF Drifted Apart, According To Science — Plus 4 Other Studies About Junior High

ByMehak Anwar

If you're like me and many others who have attended or experienced middle school, you know that it's an extremely fickle time — and one of the most fickle aspects of these sixth-to-eighth-grade years is friendship. We make new friends, we keep old friends, we even abandon some right then and there, but one thing seems to be a consistent trend: most of us drift apart from our middle school friends, and a new study published in Psychological Science set out to track 410 seventh graders throughout their middle and high school education and find out precisely why this happens.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University, led by Amy C. Hartl, checked in once a year with these students for five years and found that only one percent of friendships formed in seventh grade remained intact in twelfth grade. The researchers found that, unsurprisingly, students' differences drove them apart as they got older, until the older version of themselves had little to nothing left in common. The team also decided to isolate some other factors to see if they affected length of friendship, like sex, age, ethnicity, aggressiveness, popularity, and academic competence, but none of these things proved to be particularly significant in terms of friendship length. They did find, however, that there actually was some correlation between these factor sand length of friendship if the two people had significant differences; for example, if a popular boy was friends with an unpopular boy, their friendship was more likely to end than if the two boys had been in the same social group.

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But middle school wasn't just a strange, rough, confusing time in terms of friendship. There seemed to be a lot going on as everyone's pituitary glands caught fire and hormones raged. Check out these four other statistics and studies on middle schoolers that give us more insight into the most nefarious years of our lives.

1. Apparently Middle Schoolers Are Sexting

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A study done last year found that about one in five middle schoolers received a sexually explicit text message or photo, and those young teens were six times more likely to report being sexually active.

OK, first of all: WHAT? In middle school I was still mortified to make eye contact with my crush, begging my mom for a pink Razr, and just barely picking out clothes for myself. If someone had told me these statistics back then I would have violently blushed and run away. Secondly, what do middle schoolers even sext about? Do they have sophisticated enough vocabularies to concoct an effective sext? How far do they take it? These questions will haunt me well into my adult life, but I hope to never learn the answer.

2. Middle Schoolers Are Thrill Seekers

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According to a research article published in Cerebral Cortex in 2010, middle schoolers and adolescents engage in high-risk behavior because the part of the brain that regulates thrill is more highly activated in young teens. As the brain is developing, the teens also act more emotionally since they're still making decisions with their amygdala instead of their prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain used by adults. Probably explains why every disagreement with my best friend felt like a huge fight and why doing tricks on my skateboarding without my helmet on seemed like no big deal.

3. One in Eight Eighth Graders Is Smoking Marijuana

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Teen marijuana use is the highest it's been in the last 30 years. In 2011, national study found that one in eight eighth graders is smoking pot, a statistic I'm sure varies from state to state, county to county, and even district to district. Though I'm generally a proponent of weed, there's certainly something to be said for only using it as an adult, especially because if used recklessly or in any sort of problematic way, marijuana can have serious short-term and long-term effects on a developing brain.

4. Popular Kids Can Be Bullies

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In a study surprising to approximately zero people, those who are more popular in middle school bully more just because they can according to research from the University of California-Davis. Middle schoolers are vicious.

Basically, you probably don't have many middle school friends left, you were most likely mean as a new teen, and there's a chance that your libido was out of control. Now can we never talk about middle school again?

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