Friendships contribute significantly to developing social skills, such as being sensitive to a different point of view, learning how to have a conversation and communicate, learning age-appropriate behaviors, and learning gender roles. During this time, friends become closer or grow apart. Learning about friendship and how it changes and develops across the lifespan can provide valuable insight into who humans are and why our interrelationships matter.
Childhood and Friendship
During early childhood, children engage in play as an onlooker, someone who watches from the side until they are comfortable and ready to join in with the others; or they will play alongside their peers but not interact during play. By allowing them to build trust in their peers so they can begin to be friends. It is the beginning of learning to develop confidence in others outside of your family unit. Most toddlers participate in functional and constructive play where interaction and cooperation begin to build and grow through communication with one another.
Middle childhood begins in kindergarten through fifth grade. These years a child starts to communicate and interact more with each other. Friendship in this stage develops one’s judgment of choosing based on behaviors, trusting others, and building a connection with their peers. Building friendships at this stage is easy for some, as they are social and outgoing, yet difficult for others, as they are not as social and more introverted.
Skills for Friendship
The skills begin to develop in learning how to build trust, communication, and connecting with others based on their behaviors and actions. Friendship in this stage gives one a sense of belonging and a purpose, increases happiness and helps feel less stress. During this stage, there is a building of self-confidence and self-worth.
Adolescence is a difficult time of friendship as many aspects change and develop at the same time. During this stage, one begins to rely on friendships and to help them to determine who they are in life. Adolescence is when one begins to rely on their friends for support in academics, social aspects, and for help with lousy family or school life. During this stage, there are two primary components: cliques and crowds.
Most fall into one or the other during this stage. Cliques are smaller groups of two to twelve, and crowds are larger, less structured, consisting of more than twelve people. Cliques and crowds are not as diversified in adolescence as they tend to segregate themselves based on cultures, races, and ethnicities. Boys and girls begin to pair off as a couple and interact with each other more intimately during adolescence.
Peer pressure becomes more pronounced during this time, as well. It does not matter which clique, crowd, or small group one is surrounded by as they each have their type of pressure, be it drinking, smoking, drugs, or sex. It is almost like a ritual to wanting to be accepted within that group.
Adulthood friendships are usually already established from school and college. Adults tend to carry these friendships with them throughout their lives. Being nearby allows more social interaction and communication in adulthood. Friendship guidelines begin to change in adulthood as they are based more on similar values and outlooks on life. It is no longer about who is the most popular with the most friends. It is about a closer, smaller network of a few close friends who are there for you when you need it and who can be trusted. Yet, you may still have a more significant number of friends for socializing but just a select few in whom you confide.
How Friendship Can Boost Mental Health
Friends in all stages of life help us deal with stress, choices, strengthen us, recover from health issues, and disease quicker. Friendship is also a boost to one’s mental health. Spending time with friends who have a positive outlook on life can help to change one’s perspective to a more positive one. This little saying is one that sums up the meaning of selecting a friend “Be picky about who you keep around you. Personalities, words and traits do rub off naturally.”