We all knew them. Those kids who did and said things you'd only ever dreamed about. They went to parties with older kids, They smoked. They drank. They had sex. They were so cool. And they were so not you. You would have given anything to be that brave, that bold. But alas, you couldn't escape still being a kid.
Whatever happened to those kids? According to Joseph P. Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, and lead author of the study published in the journal Child Development, “The fast-track kids didn’t turn out O.K.."
The study followed these socially precocious kids over the course of a decade and found that their social status declined in that time and they really began to struggle.
It was their rush into "pseudomature" behaviours that set up this trouble. Now, in their early 20s, many of them have difficulties with intimate relationships, alcohol and marijuana, and criminal activity. “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,’ ” Dr. Allen said. “They’re still living in their middle-school world.”
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In middle school, they were driven to impress their friends and it worked. But once high school hit and their peers began to mature and prepare themselves for experimentation, their popularity faded.
B. Bradford Brown, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who writes about adolescent peer behaviour but was not involved in the study believes that one of the most interesting findings is that “pseudomature” behaviour was an even stronger predictor of problems with alcohol and drugs than levels of drug use in early adolescence.
There are three popularity seeking behaviours that characterize pseudomaturity. These teens sought out physically attractive friends, their romantic relationships were more numberous, more emotionally intense and involved more sexual exploration than their counterparts and finally, they dabbled in delinquency.
The study found that at 23, compared to their peers who moved a little more slowly, they had a 45 percent greater rate of problems resulting from alcohol and marijuana use and a 40 percent higher level of actual use of those substances. They also had a 22 percent greater rate of adult criminal behaviour, from theft to assaults.
It appears that their early mature behaviours had actually stunted their development. Dr. Allen has suggested that while they were chasing popularity, they were missing a critical developmental period. They weren't learning how to solidify same gender relationships nor were they engaged in easy, drama free activities like watching a movie or eating ice cream. Dr. Allen believes that parents should encourage that behaviour instead of worrying that their child isn't 'popular.'
“To be truly mature as an early adolescent means you’re able to be a good, loyal friend, supportive, hardworking and responsible,” Dr. Allen said. “But that doesn’t get a lot of airplay on Monday morning in a ninth-grade homeroom.”
It is important to remember that these results aren't absolute. There are certainly young people who engage in these behaviours and turn out just fine. Pseudomature behaviour indicates a predilection and is not a 'firm predictor.'
The majority of teens want to be accepted by their peers but there are studies available that suggest parents can go a long way in helping by reinforcing qualities that will help their teen withstand the pressure to be too cool, too young.
Being your own person can be cool, too.
What do you think of these findings?
Source: New York Times