Friendships: What are they all about? Part 1
Friendships are vital to a child’s healthy development and can continue to have a major impact on adult health and well-being.
Have you ever heard the saying, “As we grow up, we realize it becomes less important to have a ton of friends, and more important to have real ones?” In this two-part series of articles, we’re going to explore what friendship is, what research has to say about it and what different stages of friendship look like as growth and development in a young person occurs.
Friendship means something different to everyone. Regardless of how you might define friendship, what brings people together is something that’s mutual. Consider youth in school who are friends because they are in the same classroom sharing a mutual teacher. Or a teen whose friends play a common sport. It’s true for adults too; perhaps adults are friends because of where they work or volunteer. Despite how or what brings people together into friendship, it happens because of something that’s mutual.
So much can be learned through friendship and it starts at a young age. The article “The Importance of Friendship for School-Age Children” by Millie Ferrer and Anne Fugate at the University of Florida Extension indicates research has found that friends are vital to school-age children’s healthy development and that children who lack friends can suffer emotional and mental difficulties later in life. They point out that friendships help children develop emotionally and morally as they interact with friends and learn many social skills, such as how to communicate, cooperate and solve problems.
It’s no secret that being an adolescent isn’t easy. There’s so much for a young person to discover about themselves socially, emotionally and physically. According to the U.S. Department of Education, friendships can affect an adolescent’s grades, how they spend their time, what clubs they join, how they behave in public places, etc. They suggest that as children approach the teen years, friendships become closer, more important and play a key part in allowing young adolescents to sort out who they are, where they’re headed and what small groups or cliques they’ll associate with. Furthermore, studies by psychologist Thomas Berndt and his colleagues have shown that friends do influence one another's attitudes and behavior and that, over time, friends become more and more similar in their attitudes and behavior.
As youth become adolescents and then adults, friendships continue to be important. Research conducted at the Mayo Clinic says that friendship can have a major impact on adult health and well-being because good friends are good for your health as they help celebrate good times, provide support during bad times, prevent loneliness and offer companionship.
In Part 2 of this two-part series, “Friendships: What are they all about? Part 2,” we’ll look at what different stages of friendship look like as growth and development in a young person occurs. Michigan State University Extension also offers articles on a variety of topics surrounding friendship. For more information, please view:
- Helping teens develop positive friendships by Holly Tiret
- Positive peer relationships can be nurtured in various youth settings by Janet Olsen
- Develop cross-cultural awareness and friendships with youth from Japan by Brian Wibby