The New York Times, easily shocked, reports that young teenagers in the cool crowd who tried to grow up too fast by hanging out with older teens, wearing makeup, or drinking beer and stealing condoms had problems later in life.
Joseph P. Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who led a team of researchers that published a study on the subject, said that kids acting “pseudomature” “didn’t turn out O.K.”
The study followed some so-called “cool kids” for ten years, who are now in their early twenties, and found that they often failed in high school and got into drugs, ill-fated intimate relationships, and criminal behavior.
Allen continued, “They are doing more extreme things to try to act cool, bragging about drinking three six-packs on a Saturday night, and their peers are thinking, ‘These kids are not socially competent.’ They’re still living in their middle-school world.”
Allen and his team found that there were three key popularity-seeking behaviors indicating pseudomaturity: the kids looked for others who were physically attractive; they had more physically intimate and emotionally intense relationships; and they tended toward rebellious actions, such as truancy from school, sneaking into movies, and destruction of property.
The researchers seemed baffled as to why the three “pseudomature” behaviors were such accurate indicators of future trouble. Allen thought that they missed a critical developmental period. He warned parents that they should support their teens staying at home with friends or enjoying simple actions like eating ice cream and eschew worrying that their kids weren’t popular. He said, “To be truly mature as an early adolescent means you’re able to be a good, loyal friend, supportive, hardworking and responsible. But that doesn’t get a lot of airplay on Monday morning in a ninth-grade homeroom.”
Brown said the “cool kids” suffered from the pressure of leading the pack socially. He said, “So they gravitate towards older kids. In adolescence, who is open to hanging out with someone three or four years younger? The more deviant kids.”
Dr. Mitchell J Prinstein, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said there are studies indicating that parents can prepare their kids to avoid being sucked into the “cool kids” crowd. He added, “Adolescents also appreciate individuality and confidence. Adolescents who can stick to their own values can still be considered cool, even without doing what the others are doing.”