Pseudo-mature adolescent behaviors and later-in-life outcomes


Regan, Tracy L. & Lim, Choon Sung (2016). Pseudo-mature adolescent behaviors and later-in-life outcomes. 6th Biennial Conference of the American Society of Health Economists. Philadelphia, PA.


The New York Times recently highlighted work by Allen, Chango, and Szwedo (2014). These psychologists followed a diverse group of 184 subjects in Charlottesville, VA when they were age 13 and found that the teen’s engagement in “pseudo-mature” behaviors (PMB) often set them up for trouble later in life. Such behaviors can be characterized as: 1) the seeking out of friends who are physically attractive; 2) numerous, emotionally intense, and sexually exploratory romances; and 3) minor delinquency, including, for example, skipping school, sneaking into movies, and vandalism. The 20 percent of the subjects who were considered to be “cool kids” in middle school often struggled with school, drugs/alcohol, relationships, and jobs into their early adult years. Thus, it seems that pseudo-mature behavior might be a stronger predictor of problems with drugs/alcohol than drug use during adolescence. This proposed project seeks to test Allen et al.’s theory/finding by using an alternative and much larger data set—specifically, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Balsa, French, and Regan (2014) use Add Health data to examine whether an adolescent’s relative socioeconomic status had a direct effect on risky behaviors—i.e. alcohol consumption, drinking to intoxication, and smoking cigarettes. We find that an adolescent’s sense of his/her relative deprivation is positively associated with all three risky behaviors for males but not for females. Add health offers three measures of “popularity” that this project uses: 1) participation in school clubs; 2) level of popularity; and 3) self-perceived social inclusion. The former include, for example, involvement in school-based extracurricular activities like arts and sports clubs. The latter can be surmised from the student responses to whether he/she felt: 1) close to people at school; 2) part of the school; and 3) socially accepted. Balsa et al. employed these “popularity” measures as mere controls in a series of robustness checks and interestingly enough, the estimated coefficients were negative and statistically significant in explaining the likelihood of engaging in a particular risky behavior. Thus, this suggests that more popular students are less likely to smoke and drink. There are various theories from the psychology, education, and economics literature than can help explain the mechanisms by which students partake in PMBs. Preliminary results from the publically available data finds evidence that engagement in PMBs does affect adult outcomes; the results differ by gender. The adult outcomes include: years of schooling, working at least 10 hours/week, stable relationships, self-reported health status, and body mass index (BMI). Additionally, one’s sense of social connection and involvement at school contributes to his/her participation in PMBs. We are in the process of securing the confidential data so that the research questions can be investigated with a larger sample that includes controls at the geographic (e.g., school) level.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

6th Biennial Conference of the American Society of Health Economists


Regan, Tracy L.
Lim, Choon Sung

Year Published


City of Publication

Philadelphia, PA

Reference ID