Parents often think teenagers are overly obsessed with their best friends. They should let them be. New research published in the […]
Parents often think teenagers are overly obsessed with their best friends. They should let them be.
New research published in the journal Child Development shows that teens aged 15 and 16 who had a close friend, rather than a bigger peer group featuring less intense relationships, reported higher levels of self-worth and lower levels of social anxiety and depression at 25 compared with their peers who were more broadly popular as teens.
Prior research has shown that friendship is important in adolescence—it predicts everything from stronger psychological health and better stress responses to improved academic motivation and success duringadolescence.
Rachel K. Narr, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia who led the study, wanted to dig deeper into teenage friendships: which kinds matter the most when it comes to positive outcomes later in life? And how long do those effects last?
“My hunch was that close friendships compared to broader friendship groups and popularity may not function the same way,” she says. “Being successful in one is not the same as being successful in the other.”
Narr’s study tracked 169 adolescents over 10 years, from age 15 to 25. The kids were racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. The authors interviewed the kids at 15, 16, and then again at 25. They were asked who their closest friends were, and detailed questions about their friendships in general. The interviewers also asked them about anxiety, social acceptance, self-worth, and symptoms of depression.
They triangulated the teens’ responses, making sure best friends concurred on being best friends, and those who said they were popular had reports from others of actually being popular. “High-quality friendships” were defined as “close friendships with a degree of attachment and support, and those that allow for intimate exchanges.”