Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 1007–1021 | Cite as

The Cost of Being Cool: How Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior Maps onto Adult Adjustment

  • Leslie Gordon Simons
  • Tara E. Sutton
  • Sarah Shannon
  • Mark T. Berg
  • Frederick X. Gibbons
Empirical Research


During adolescence, one's status among peers is a major concern. Such status is often largely a function of popularity and establishing oneself as “cool.” While there are conventional avenues to achieving status among adolescents, engaging in adult-like, or pseudomature, behaviors such as substance use or sexual activity is a frequent occurrence. Although past research has examined the consequences of adolescent delinquency, what remains unclear is the long-term fate of adolescents who are both popular and antisocial. Using data from a sample of African American males (N = 339) we employ latent class analysis to examine the adult consequences of achieving popularity during adolescence by engaging in pseudomature behavior. Our results identified four classes of adolescents: the conventionals, the pseudomatures, the delinquents, and the detached. The conventionals were low on popularity, pseudomature behavior, and affiliation with deviant peers but high on academic commitment. The pseudomatures were high on popularity, adult-like behavior, and academic commitment but low on affiliation with delinquent peers. The delinquents were low on popularity and school achievement but high on pseudomature behavior and affiliations with delinquent peers. Finally, the detached were low on school commitment, popularity and pseudomature behavior but they report high involvement with a delinquent peer group. By early adulthood, the costs of adolescent adult-like behavior were evident. Early popularity and academic commitment did not portend later social competence or college completion for the pseudomatures. Instead, they frequently experienced an early transition to parenthood, a likely consequence of precocious sexual activity. These findings suggest that interventions should not focus only on the most delinquent adolescents but also need to attend to the pseudomature students who are brimming with promise but are flirting with behaviors that may subvert realization of this potential.


Delinquency Popularity Pseudomature behavior Sexual activity 


Author Contributions

L.G.S. conceived of the study, participated in its design, and drafted the manuscript; T.S. performed the statistical analysis and interpretation of the results; S.S., M.B. and F.X.G. helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH48165, MH62669) and the Center for Disease Control (029136-02). Additional funding for this project was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Gordon Simons
    • 1
  • Tara E. Sutton
    • 1
  • Sarah Shannon
    • 1
  • Mark T. Berg
    • 2
  • Frederick X. Gibbons
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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