Build Social Connections and Friendships with Peers

OVERVIEW

People of all ages need to connect with other people and build friendships. While this is also observed in animals, forming connections and building friendships appear to be integral parts of being human. During the adolescent years, teens learn to form safe and healthy relationships with friends and even romantic partners. In fact, a circle of caring and supported peers and friends may ease the transition into early adulthood.

While building these connections and friendships, it is important to ensure that they are healthy relationships. You need to be able to speak freely and listen closely. Your communication should be based on honesty, respect, and trust. Healthy relationships help you feel good about yourself; unhealthy relationships foster feelings of anger, fear, sadness, or worry. Healthy relationships have about equal amounts of give and take; in an unhealthy relationship there are unfair imbalances.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Support from Peers, School, and Family Is Important as Students Transition to Secondary School

The researchers learned that support from peers, schools, and family members all predicted a positive transition. In grade 7, a high level of peer support was the most significant predictor of the expectation of an easy or somewhat easy transition. In grade 8, parental presence was the most significant protective predictor of an easy or somewhat easy transition experience. The researchers concluded that “students who expect and experience a positive transition to secondary school are generally well-supported by their peers, school, and family.” 1

Peers and Friends Appear to Play a Role in Adolescent Physical Activity

In an article published in 2012 in the Journal of Adolescence, researchers from Ireland wanted to learn more about the influence that peers and friends have on physical activity among American teens. The researchers searched seven electronic databases to identify articles published during the previous 10 years on children/teens between the ages of 10 and 18 years and found 23 studies to include in the investigation. The researchers found that peers and/or friends consistently played an important role in the physical activity of teens, and they identified six ways in which this is accomplished. These are peer and/or friend support, presence of peers and friends, peer norms, friendship quality and acceptance, peer crowds, and peer victimization. The researchers also learned that the influence of peer support appeared to be greater for at-risk and overweight youths. And, a teen’s positive relationships with peers contributed significantly to physical activity participation. “Good quality friendships and a feeling of social connectedness with peers strengthen self-determined motivation for adolescents in sport and enjoyment of PA [physical activity] was increased through having more in common with one’s peers.” On the other hand, the researchers observed that peer victimization may create an environment in which teens feel less secure about physical activity and may result in avoidance of physically active situations. The researchers added that “there is merit in promoting the importance of PA amongst peers and friends in order to increase their PA levels.” 2

Another study on the same topic was conducted by Australian researchers and published in 2011 in Social Science & Medicine. During the 2008 school year, the researchers conducted three evaluations of self-reported participation in physical activity, cognition about physical activity, and friendship ties to fellow students in two cohorts of 378 Australian eighth grade students, with a mean age of 13.7 years.

3

Female Teens Who Are Closer to Their Parents Have an Easier Time Making Friends in College

In a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, researchers from Greensboro, North Carolina, wanted to learn more about the association between the attachment of female teens to their parents and the ease of forming friendships in college. In July 2006, before their first semester at college began, 172 incoming female freshmen completed a measurement of parental attachment survey. In December 2006, at the end of their first semester, an assessment was conducted of their ease in forming college friendships. The women were between the ages of 18 and 20 years, and 30 percent were minorities. The researchers found a positive association between a secure attachment to parents and an ease in forming friendships. This proved to be true for both the white and minority females. The researchers concluded that “attachment to parents plays an important role in the close relationship of female college students.” 4

Instant Messaging May Help Foster and Maintain Interpersonal Relationships

In a study published in 2009 in the journal Adolescence, researchers from Taiwan wanted to learn more about the association between instant messaging and the development of relationships in “real life.” The cohort consisted of 369 Taiwanese junior high school students, with an average age of 14.58 years. Slightly more than half were male. After asking students questions about their use of instant messaging and their real-life interpersonal relationships, the researchers learned that the students used instant messaging an average of 3.66 hours three times a week. Apparently, the teens sent instant messages “to improve their interpersonal relationships in real life” and to help in the formation and maintenance of friendships. But, over time, instant messaging “became a standard communication device.” 5

BARRIERS AND PROBLEMS

Social Ties May Also Be Harmful 6

Teens May Encourage Their Friends to Start Smoking

In a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers from Pennsylvania and Arizona wanted to learn more about the influence peers have in the initiation of smoking. The researchers directed their attention to survey data from two high schools—one was an almost entirely white school located in a midsized town in the Midwest and the other was a racially and ethnically diverse high school located in a suburban community in the West. As in other studies, these researchers found strong evidence of the peer effects of smoking initiation. However, peers do not necessarily follow their peers when they stop smoking. The tendency for teens to follow their peers into smoking is stronger than the tendency to follow them to smoking cessation. “For many adolescents the decision to quit smoking often occurs in the absence of strong peer support of their choice.” 7

Best Friends May Have Negative Influences

In a study published online in 2015, in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, researchers from Florida and Sweden examined the influence best friends have over problematic behavior such as the consumption of alcohol and truancy. The cohort consisted of 306 Swedish males and 394 Swedish females who had same-sex best friends who were stable from year to year. At baseline, the students were in secondary school, ages 13 to 14 years, or high school, ages 16 to 17 years. Each member of the friendship dyads rated his or her satisfaction with the relationship. The researchers determined that the more satisfied friends had more influence than the less satisfied friends over the consumption of alcohol and truancy. The researchers noted that “some friends were a positive influence, and others were not… . Alcohol abuse and truancy increased when the more satisfied friend reported greater problems.” 8

NOTES

1. Stacey Waters, Leanne Lester, and Donna Cross, “How Does Support from Peers Compare with Support from Adults as Students Transition to Secondary School?” Journal of Adolescent Health 54 (2014): 543-49.

2. Amanda Fitzgerald, Noelle Fitzgerald, and Cian Aherne, “Do Peers Matter? A Review of Peer and/or Friends’ Influence on Physical Activity Among American Adolescents,” Journal of Adolescence 35 (2012): 941-58.

3. Kayla de la Haye, Garry Robins, Philip Mohr, and Carlene Wilson, “How Physical Activity Shapes, and Is Shaped by, Adolescent Friendships,” Social Science & Medicine 73 (2011): 719-28.

4. S. H. Parade, E. M. Leerkes, and A. N. Blankson, “Attachment to Parents, Social Anxiety, and Close Relationships of Female Students Over the Transition to College,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 39, no. 2 (2010): 127-37.

5. Y. C. Lee and Y. C. Sun, “Using Instant Messaging to Enhance the Interpersonal Relationships of Taiwanese Adolescents: Evidence from Quantile Regression Analysis,” Adolescence 44, no. 173 (2009): 199-208.

6. Anna S. Mueller, Seth Abrutyn, and Cynthia Stockton, “Can Social Ties Be Harmful? Examining the Spread of Suicide in Early Adulthood,” Sociological Perspectives 58, no. 2 (2015): 204-22.

7. Steven A. Haas and David R. Schaefer, “With a Little Help From My Friends? Asymmetrical Social Influence on Adolescent Smoking Initiation and Cessation,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55, no. 2 (2014): 126-43.

8. C. Hiatt, B. Laursen, H. Stattin, and M. Kerr, “Best Friend Influence Over Adolescent Problem Behaviors: Socialized by the Satisfied,” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology (July 2015): 1-14.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers

de la Haye, Kayla, Garry Robins, Philip Mohr, and Carlene Wilson. “How Physical Activity Shapes, and Is Shaped by, Adolescent Friendships.” Social Science & Medicine 73 (2011): 719-28.

Fitzgerald, Amanda, Noelle Fitzgerald, and Cian Aherne. “Do Peers Matter? A Review of Peer and/or Friends’ Influence on Physical Activity Among American Adolescents.” Journal of Adolescence 35 (2012): 941-58.

Gommans, Rob, Gonneke, W. J. M. Stevens, Emily Finne et al. “Frequent Electronic Media Communications with Friends Is Associated with Higher Adolescent Substance Use.” International Journal of Public Health 60 (2015): 167-77.

Haas, Steven A., and David R. Schaefer. “With a Little Help from My Friends? Asymmetrical Social Influence on Adolescent Smoking Initiation and Cessation.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55, no. 2 (2014): 126-43.

Hiatt, C., B. Laursen, H. Stattin, and M. Kerr. “Best Friend Influence Over Adolescent Problem Behaviors: Socialized by the Satisfied.” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology (July 2015): 1-14.

Huang, Grace C., Jennifer B. Unger, Daniel Soto et al. “Peer Influences: The Impact of Online and Offline Friendship Networks on Adolescent Smoking and Alcohol Use.” Journal of Adolescent Health 54 (2014): 508-14.

Lee, Y. C., and Y. C. Sun. “Using Instant Messaging to Enhance the Interpersonal Relationships of Taiwanese Adolescents: Evidence from Quantile Regression Analysis.” Adolescence 44, no. 173 (2009): 199-208.

Lev-Ari, Lilac, Inbar Baumgarten-Katz, and Ada H. Zohar. “Show Me Your Friends, and I Shall Show You Who You Are: The Way Attachment and Social Comparisons Influence Body Dissatisfaction.” European Eating Disorders Review 22, no. 6 (2014): 463-69.

Logis, Handrea A., Philip C. Rodkin, Scott D. Gest, and Hai-Jeong Ahn. “Popularity as an Organizing Factor of Preadolescent Friendship Networks: Beyond Prosocial and Aggressive Behavior.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 23, no. 3 (2013): 413-23.

Mueller, Anna S., Seth Abrutyn, and Cynthia Stockton. “Can Social Ties Be Harmful? Examining the Spread of Suicide in Early Adulthood.” Sociological Perspectives 58, no. 2 (2015): 204-22.

Parade, S. H., E. M. Leerkes, and A. N. Blankson. “Attachment to Parents, Social Anxiety, and Close Relationship of Female Students Over Transition to College.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 39, no. 2 (2010): 127-37.

Waters, Stacey, Leanne Lester, and Donna Cross. “How Does Support from Peers Compare with Support from Adults as Students Transition to Secondary School?” Journal of Adolescent Health 54 (2014): 543-49.

Web Site

Common Sense Media. www.commonsensemedia.org .

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.