There’s been a long-running notion that the “cool kid” in high school ends up not making much out of his adult life. Anyone who’s seen the Adam Sandler movie Billy Madison knows the exact type of person this idea focuses on: the popular guy who spent more time partying than he did studying. You know, the guy who skipped classes, and was celebrated by other like-minded individuals who looked up to him for his delinquent attitude. Most of us knew this person wouldn’t make much of himself. Now, science has proven it to be true. Joseph P. Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, states these “fast-track kids” didn’t turn out alright, after all.
The study conducted by the University of Virginia followed 184 students, about 20% of which were classified as “risk-taking, socially precocious cool kids” for a decade, from the ages of 13 to 23. The study focused on teens who “sought out friends who were physically attractive; their romances were more numerous, emotionally intense and sexually exploring than those of their peers; and they dabbled in minor delinquency — skipping school, sneaking into movies, vandalism.” (A quick side note: Did anyone really ever think these actions were “cool?” What were we thinking in high school??)
The study found that many of the “cool” kids grew up to be adults with alcohol and substance abuse problems. These guys and gals were more likely to have been in trouble with the law than those who weren’t considered so “cool” ten years earlier. In other words, they’re more likely to continue on the path they were on throughout high school. However, what may have been considered minor delinquency as a teenager is considered felonious as an adult, and has serious repercussions in the real world. Unfortunately for those “cool” kids who grew up too fast, the damage may have already been done.
Why it Happened
Scientists refer to the actions these “cool” kids took as teens as “pseudomaturity.” In an effort to get ahead of the crowd, these teens skipped over important life stages, such as building long-lasting, meaningful relationships, and building usable skills. Instead, they went right into promiscuity and binge-drinking. (That’s not to say that promiscuity and binge-drinking are ever acceptable, but these actions certainly are not acceptable when you’re not even old enough to drive). While most other 15-year-olds were catching movies with their friends, or honing their skills on the basketball court, these pseudomature individuals were wasting precious time joyriding and getting drunk and high with people they never really cared about anyway.
Fast-forward ten years, and while those who spent their high school years wisely have gone on to graduate level coursework, the people who were once the most popular kids in school now lack a proper foundation to get started in the real world. Instead, they find themselves delving into old, detrimental habits, such as binge-drinking and using drugs. Again, what was considered “partying” ten years earlier is what these former cool kids use to cope with their own inadequacy. Ironically, those who yearned to hang out with the older crew when they were 13-14 years old, in an effort to relive their glory days, end up wanting to hang out with the younger crew the older they get.
In a rush to be loved, admired, and even envied by everyone else around them, many teens end up taking risks that have long-lasting consequences which they never even knew about. In their never-ending quest to impress everyone around them with their “coolness,” these kids ended up doing irreparable damage to their minds, bodies, and personalities. The teens who grew up too fast ultimately hit a wall within years of becoming an adult. Ironically, they never end up truly growing up at all.
Featured photo credit: Alcohol Poisoning PSA Video Shoot / Stop Alcohol Deaths, Inc. via farm6.staticflickr.com