Later Relationships

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Later Relationships

The Development of Friendships

According to Erwin (1998) children's friendships have a number of different functions:

  • Allow for development of interactional and cognitive skills
  • Provide an opportunity for intimacy
  • Enable us to exchange and test knowledge of people and the world
  • Can be an important emotional buffer in times of stress

Age Related Differences In Friendships
Many studies show that friends tend to share personality traits, interests, backgrounds etc. More than half of 3-4 year olds have at least one friendship that lasts at least 6 months (Howes 1996). At 7 years of age, children often identify 4 friends and 12 year olds usually say they have 7 friends (Reisman and Shorr, 1978.) At all of these ages, friends tend to be of the same sex and also quite similar. When 9-13 year old friends were compared to non friends on a range of characteristics, such as cooperation, shyness, being aggressive and helpful, the friends were more similar than non friends. Hartup and Stevens (1999) report a decrease in the number of friends after early teens. Children seem to value friends more as they get older and prefer the company of peers to adults and family. So their understanding of friendship seems to age with age. This age-related change may be explained through a lessening egocentrism and being able to see things from someone else's point of view.

The Selman and Jaquette study

Aim: to investigate the opinions of friendship

Method: 200 individuals aged between 3 and 4 years were interviewed on friendships.


Approx age. Features of friendship

3-7. Playing together

4-9. Giving help, but not friendly reciprosy

6-12. Focus on reciprosy

9-15. Intimacy and sharing

12- adult Independence but authority of each person

Conclusion: With increasing age, the nature of friendship changes

Evaluation: Provides info of the way children's friendships develop. However, the studies rely on interviews and so the study is highly qualitative and subjective.

Bigelow and Gapia found that after asking 960 children from Canada and Scotland about best friends, the stories were rated and 3 stages of friendship were identified:

Age. Name. Features of stage

7-8. Reward cost. Common activities, similar expectations

9-10. Normative. Shared values and rules

11-12. Empathetic. Understanding, sharing of self and shared interest

These two studies differ in precise description of development of friendship. Both studies found that as children get older, friendship involves a change from physical to psychological processes.

It has been suggested that having friends can be important for later development, and one or two friends can make it less likely that rejected or isolated children at older ages experience developmental difficulties.

Selman and Jaquette found that with increasing age, the nature of friendship changes. The increasingly complex understanding of friendship show in older children may be due to the increased ability to express such ideas in language, in which younger children cannot do. Just as a child doesn't talk about characteristics such as trust and empathy, it doesn't mean they don't appreciate and recognise such…


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