"Pseudomature" Youth May Find Trouble Later in Life, Study Says


A recent article published in The New York Times explores the time-honored mystique of "cool kids," or the youth and teens who were considered most popular among their peers. The article calls upon a new study to question what happens to cool kids and where and how they end up in the future. According to the study, the "fast-track" kids didn't always turn out that well.

"Fast-track" is a term that generally applies to youth and teens who are "socially precocious." These are kids who wore makeup before their classmates, dated older boyfriends or girlfriends, went to parties with older students, and engaged in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use. A recent study from the University of Virginia published this month in Child Development journal followed these risk taking, fast-track kids for a decade.The study found that these students' social status began to plummet in high school and that they often began struggling in many ways.

Psychologists state that a rush to mature behavior set kids up for trouble. In their 20s, many of the study's subjects encountered difficulties with maintaining relationships, drugs and alcohol, and criminal activity. In fact, one of the most significant findings from the study was that kids' "pseudomaturity" – or attempt to appear older and impress friends – was a stronger predictor of problems with alcohol and drugs than drug use in early adolescence.

According to the study, pseudomaturity consisted of three popularity-seeking behaviors: (1) seeking friends who are physically attractive (2) romantic relationships that were more frequent, emotionally intense, and sexually exploring than peers, and (3) forays into delinquency such as skipping school, sneaking into movies, and vandalism. Ultimately, the study found that youth who engaged in this type of behavior encountered serious problems by the time they turned 23:

  • 45% greater rate of problems with alcohol and marijuana use
  • 40% higher level of actually use of alcohol and marijuana
  • 22% greater rate of criminal behavior in adulthood

Researchers have suggested several reasons behind the difficulties pseudomaturity can bring in later life. One suggestion is that youth who are not engaged in this behavior learn to create solid relationships with peers rather than chasing popularity and risk. Still, researchers state that although it should be something parents watch carefully, pseudomaturity is not always a firm predictor of future problems.

If you have questions about juvenile crime and would like to speak with a Columbus criminal defense attorney about high school and college cases, contact us today.