Quality Over Quantity: Close, Healthy Friendships During Teen Years Important

Friendships are an important part of a young person’s life. As children develop into teenagers, they often turn to their peers more. As adults, we often look back at those friendships and realize how strong those connections were to us. While some people downplay the importance of middle and high school friendships, they are an critical part of adolescent development.

Jerry Anderson sheds some light on this topic in her article,“New Research Shows One Kind of Teenage Friendship is More likely to Result in a Happier Healthier Adulthood.” The study shows that teens (ages 15 and 16) who had a close friend, instead of a bigger peer group that contains less intense relationships, reported higher levels of self-worth and lower levels of social anxiety and depression at the age of 25 in comparison to peers who were more pop-ular as teens.

Rachel K. Narr, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia lead the study. Narr had a hunch that close friendships, when compared to broader friendship groups and popularity, may not work the same way. Her researched spoke to the idea of “popularity,” comparing people who are likable and trusted with those that seek status and try to use popularity as power.

Narr also offered some hypothesis on why kids with close friends fared better down the road. The relationships formed during the adolescent years are very important, in part because they are some of the first ones formed outside the family. They also come at a time when identity is formed.

Although, most young people won’t have the same best friend ten years after their teen years, but making close friends develops muscles that can become self-defining characteristics. However, the opposite can also be true. Things that make a teen popular, like being the life of the party, loses its appeal as they get older.

However, it is important to note the study also took place before social media took hold, during the time period of May 2001 to November 2011.

“As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and atten-tion on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority,” Joseph Allen, a psychology pro-fessor at the University of Virginia and co-author the study said.

Jessica Fehrenbacher is the Make a Difference Grant Program Manager at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana. Since 1987, Youth Resources has engaged over 145,000 youth in leadership development and com-munity service through its youth-led TEENPOWER, Teen Advisory Council, Teen Court and Make A Differ-ence Grant Programs. For more information, please call (812) 421-0030 or visit www.youth-resources.org.