The importance of best friends to children

The importance of  best friends to children

By Liz Lockhart

Having a best friend around directly affects children going through negative experiences.  Best friends provide a buffer and have an immediate effect on a child’s mind, according to new research from Concordia University.  The study is published in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Co-author, William Bukowski Ph.D., a psychology professor and director of the Concordia Centre for Research in Human Development, said ‘Having a best friend present during an unpleasant event has an immediate impact on a child’s body and mind.  If a child is alone when he or she gets in trouble with a teacher or has an argument with a classmate, we see a measurable increase in cortisol levels and decrease in feelings of self-worth.’

The participants in this study were 55 boys and 48 girls in fifth and sixth grades in Montreal schools.  They kept journals on their feelings and experiences over a period of four days.  They also had regular saliva tests to monitor cortisol levels.

Previous studies have suggested that friendships can protect against later adjustment difficulties, however, this study is the first to show that having a friend present is an immediate benefit for the child who is experiencing a negative situation, the researchers said.

Bukowski said that the implications of the results of this study have far-reaching implications, adding ‘Our physiological and psychological reactions to negative experiences as children impact us later in life.  Excessive secretion of cortisol can lead to significant physiological changes, including immune suppression and decreased bone formation.  Increased stress can really slow down a child’s development.’

‘What we learn about ourselves as children is how we form our adult identities.  If we build up feelings of low self-worth during childhood, this will translate directly into how we see ourselves as adults,’ Bukowski concluded.

Source: Concordia University 

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