The meek kids from middle school shall inherit the earth. Or at least they'll live healthier and more productive lives than their "cooler" peers once they enter adulthood.
Researchers studying 13-year-olds found that those who engaged in "pseudomature" behavior -- such as minor shoplifting and precocious romantic relationships -- and were seen as the "cool kids" tended to develop problems with drugs and relationships by their early 20s.
In the study, published Thursday in the journal Child Development, scientists tracked nearly 200 13-years-olds in the Southeastern United States for 10 years, gauging how much they valued their popularity, how important appearance was in seeking out friends and if they used drugs or had romantic relationships.
The study found that young teens who acted old for their age by sneaking into movies, forming early romantic relationships, shoplifting and basing friendships on appearance were seen by peers as popular. But as these "pseudomature" teens and their less adventurous counterparts matured, their behavior was no longer linked with popularity.
Instead, they were thought to be less socially competent by their peers and had more problems with substance abuse, said Joseph Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and lead author on the study.