“Cool” kids meet a sticky end

A longitudinal study published in Child Development has shown that trying to grow up too soon is a good predictor of long-term difficulties.

When pseudomature behaviour (such as minor delinquency or precocious romantic involvement) occurs early in adolescence it can reflect an overemphasis on wanting to impress peers, and predict long-term adjustment problems. In the study, 184 adolescents in the south-eastern United States were followed from ages 13 to 23. At age 13, pseudomature behaviour was linked to an increased desire for peer popularity and led to short-term success with peers.

However, long-term follow-up showed that pseudomature behaviour predicted difficulties in social functioning ten years later. Those who had shown pseudomature behaviour experienced declining popularity with peers, and lower levels of peer competence, as rated by their peers, in early adulthood. It also predicted higher adult levels of more serious criminal behaviour, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Adolescents who engaged most in pseudomature behaviour were also those who valued being popular most highly. The authors say that this status-seeking link is important, since it suggests that some early adolescents learn to establish connections with peers by trying to impress them with pseudomature behaviour, rather than by learning to connect with them via more adaptive means.

Source: What Ever Happened to the “Cool” Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior, Child Development, 85(5).

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