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The Perils of Raising a 'Cool' Kid

Many of us envied them. Heck, we wanted to be them. We're talking about the cool kids in school. But it turns out, life for these adolescents doesn't always turn out as awesome as we'd imagined.

According to a study published this month in the journal Child Development, which was reported on by both the New York Times and Yahoo Finance, a lot of the kids we envied as teens end up abusing alcohol and drugs, have trouble maintaining steady, healthy relationships and often have problems with the law.

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"The fast-track kids didn't turn out OK," said Joseph P. Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and the study's lead author. He explored how a certain type of behavior exhibited in some teens, which he calls "adolescent pseudomature behavior," may be having a negative impact on their future development.

Adolescent pseudomature behavior characterizes young teens who want to look and feel mature before their age, though they haven't reached the emotional and behavioral maturity that comes with adulthood. These teens tend to behave in ways they consider mature, like consuming alcohol, smoking, partying and having sex.

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To determine how seemingly rebellious habits at an early age affected those in the study, researchers spent 10 years following the behavioral habits of 184 subjects (86 males and 98 females) from the ages of 13 to 23. Their social status was documented throughout middle school, high school and afterward. When the study started, about 20 percent of the kids were considered "cool" by themselves and peers, but going into high school and beyond, their status dramatically declined, as represented in the graph below.

By the time these "cool" kids turned 23, many of them were having significantly more problems with criminal behavior, and alcohol and marijuana use, than other subjects in the study who were not ranked as "cool."

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Researchers hypothesize that the "cool" kids valued being popular above all other subjects, and continued with their risky behaviors into adulthood to hold onto that status. So if your preteen or teen tries to act older than his or her years by behaving in ways that someone much older would act, take notice. It could be the start of a downward spiral.

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Image via Twenty20/tcashsnaps

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