A study reveals: No such link between internalized symptoms and dissolution of teen friendships

Florida Atlantic University

In order to study the level to which social withdrawal, depression, compliance, and anxiety predicted the ending of adolescent friendships, a group of researchers from the Florida Atlantic University collaborated. The study was co-authored by Doctor Brett Laursen, Doctor Amy C Harti, and Professor Antonius H. N. Cillessen, and Doctor Fanny Alexandra Guimond was the lead author. The study got published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

The sample of the study included 194 boys and 203 girls out of 499 similar sex friendships, who from the age of 13 till the end of their high school (class 12). At the time of the study, participants were residing in Connecticut. Individual time survival evaluation was conducted with the 7th-grade peer, his teacher, and self-reports of affecting symptoms like Social withdrawal, anxiety, etc. as the predictors of the time when the friendship ended.

Surprisingly, the findings indicated no such evidence. Laursen stated: “An important takeaway from our study is that children’s personal struggles need not adversely impact their social relationships. Mental health issues do not necessarily ruin chances of making and maintaining worthwhile friendships. The behavioral similarity is tremendously important to friendship. Shared feelings and shared experiences are the glue that holds a friendship together.”

In many respects, both genders had similar factors that predicted the instability of friendship. There was only one prominent exception: difference in submissiveness decreased the friendship instability for girls but increased in the case of boys.

Laursen added on: “Compared with girls, boys are more competitive and confrontational in interactions with friends, suggesting that dissimilarity on submissiveness may be a liability when it comes to the activities that many boys prefer such as sports and games. Compared to boys, girls tend to favor extended dyadic exchanges, and so they may respond to submissive behavior with support and empathy, which may strengthen friendship ties.”

The authors concluded by saying: “When children are having difficulties making and keeping friends, it may be important to remind them about the importance of being similar. Too often, dissimilar friends become former friends.”