Our brains are hard-wired to develop social relationships, and infants as young as 4 – 6 weeks demonstrate social skills with their smiling and cooing. Research consistently demonstrates the importance of our social relationships, including friendships, in our overall health.
In a study of 238 middle school students, the quality of friendships was related to early adolescent adjustment. “Adolescents who had lower levels of peer acceptance, number of friends, and friendship quality had greater teacher-reported maladjustment.” (Waldrip Am, Malcolm KT, Jensen-Campbell LA, With a little help from your friends: the importance of high-quality friendships on early adolescent adjustment. Social Development. 2008; 17(4): 832-852.)
Studies of older adults demonstrate that those with more social activities and friendships have increased life satisfaction compared to those adults with fewer friends. (Huxhold O, Miche M, Schuz B. Benefits of having friends in older ages: differential effects of informal social activities on well-being in middle-aged and older adults. J of Gerontology. 2014; 3(1):366-375.)
However, the social skills necessary to develop friendships must be learned and reinforced in childhood to assure lifelong skills. This is even more important in today’s environment, filled with social media in which friends are more virtual than real.
Previous newsletters contain additional information that will help children develop personal characteristics of compassion, generosity, and forgiveness that will help them develop meaningful and beneficial friendships.
For information on helping children make friends specific to each age group, please view the NPC resources below: