ERIC Identifier: ED345854
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Hartup, Willard W.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Having Friends, Making Friends, and Keeping Friends:
Relationships as Educational Contexts. ERIC Digest.
Peer relations contribute substantially to both social and cognitive
development and to the effectiveness with which we function as adults. Indeed,
the single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is not school grades,
and not classroom behavior, but rather, the adequacy with which the child gets
along with other children. Children who are generally disliked, who are
aggressive and disruptive, who are unable to sustain close relationships with
other children, and who cannot establish a place for themselves in the peer
culture, are seriously at risk.
THE CONDITIONS OF FRIENDSHIP
The essentials of friendship
are reciprocity and commitment between individuals who see themselves more or
less as equals. Interaction between friends rests on a more equal power base
than the interaction between children and adults. Some writers regard
friendships as "affiliative relations" rather than attachments; nonetheless,
young children make a large emotional investment in their friends, and their
relationships are relatively enduring.
The main themes in friendship relations--affiliation and common
interests--are first understood by children in early childhood. Among preschool
and younger school-aged children, expectations for friendship center on common
pursuits and concrete reciprocities. Later, children's views about their friends
center on mutual understanding, loyalty, and trust. Children also expect to
spend time with their friends, share their interests, and engage in
self-disclosure with them. Friends have fun with one another; they enjoy doing
things together; and they care about one another. Although school-aged children
and adolescents never use words like EMPATHY or INTIMACY to describe their
friends, in their thinking, these constructs distinguish friends from other
*emotional resources, both for having fun and adapting to stress;
*cognitive resources for problem-solving and knowledge acquisition;
*contexts in which basic social skills (for example, social communication,
cooperation, and group entry skills) are acquired or elaborated; and
*forerunners of subsequent relationships.
Above all, friendships are egalitarian. They are symmetrically or
horizontally structured, in contrast to adult-child relationships, which are
asymmetrically or vertically structured. Friends are similar to each other in
developmental status, engaging each other mostly in play and socializing.
FRIENDS AS EMOTIONAL RESOURCES. As emotional resources, friendships furnish
children with the security to strike out into new territory, meet new people,
and tackle new problems. Friends set the emotional stage for exploring one's
surroundings, not unlike the manner in which caretakers serve as secure bases
for the young child. These relationships also support the processes involved
with having fun. Researchers have found that the duration and frequency of
laughing, smiling, looking, and talking are greater between friends than between
strangers, and that friends mimic one another more extensively.
Friendships may buffer children and adolescents from the adverse effects of
negative events, such as family conflict, terminal illness, parents'
unemployment, and school failure. Some studies suggest that friendships ease the
stress associated with divorce, though in different manners for boys and girls.
School-aged boys turn readily to friends, seemingly to distance themselves from
the troubled household. Girls, however, enter into friendships but need their
FRIENDS AS COGNITIVE RESOURCES. Children teach one another in many situations
and are generally effective in this activity. Peer teaching occurs in four main
*PEER TUTORING is the didactic transmission of information from one child to
another, ordinarily from an expert to a novice.
*COOPERATIVE LEARNING requires children to combine problem-solving
contributions and share rewards.
*PEER COLLABORATION, in contrast, occurs when novices work together on tasks
that neither can do separately.
*PEER MODELING refers to information transferred by imitation.
It has yet to be determined whether friends are better tutors than nonfriends
or the manner in which friendship affects cooperative learning and modeling.
Peer collaboration among both friends and nonfriends has been studied more
extensively. One would expect friends to share motives and develop verbal and
motor scripts that enable them to combine their talents in achieving their
goals. And indeed, recent studies show that collaboration with friends results
in more mastery of certain tasks than collaboration between nonfriends. Friends
talk more, take more time to work out differences in their understanding of game
rules, and compromise more readily than nonfriends do. This evidence suggests
that friendships are unique contexts for transmitting information from one child
FRIENDS AND SOCIAL SKILLS. Considerable evidence shows that both cooperation
and conflict occur more readily in friendships than in other contexts. Preschool
children engage in more frequent cooperative exchanges with their friends than
with neutral associates or with children whom they don't like. Conflicts occur
more often between friends than nonfriends, but friends emphasize disengagement
and equity in conflict management to a greater extent than nonfriends do.
Research corroborates the notion that children's relationships with their
friends support cooperation and reciprocity and effective conflict management.
FRIENDSHIP AND SUBSEQUENT RELATIONSHIPS. Children's friendships are thought
to be templates for subsequent relationships. While new relationships are never
exact copies of old ones, the organization of behavior in relationships
generalizes from old ones to new ones. Smoothly functioning friendships have
been shown to rub-off on relationships between preschool children and their
FRIENDSHIP EXPERIENCE AND DEVELOPMENTAL OUTCOMES
few investigators have actually sought to verify the
developmental significance of friendship. The issue is certainly complicated.
Close relationships may support good adjustment and its development, but,
alternatively, well-adjusted children may simply be better at establishing
friendships than poorly adjusted ones. Nevertheless, studies show that
friendships forecast good adjustment during the early weeks of kindergarten, and
that making new friends changes children's adjustment in positive directions
during the school year.
Outcomes, however, may depend on the nature of the relationship. Friendships
are not all alike. Some are secure and smooth-sailing; others are rocky with
disagreement and contention. New evidence shows that these differences spill
over into school adjustment. Students whose friendships are marked by conflict
and rivalry become progressively disruptive and disengaged. However, close
relationships are unlikely to contribute to EVERYTHING. While emerging evidence
strongly suggests that having friends, making friends, and keeping them
forecasts good developmental outcomes, it is unlikely that these results can be
attributed EXCLUSIVELY to such relationships. On the contrary, friendship may
contribute more to certain adaptations, such as positive self-attitudes or
self-regard, than to social skills broadly conceived. Friendship may also
contribute more to relationship functioning (for example, with siblings, other
friends, or romantic partners) than to being generally well-liked.
Whether friends are NECESSITIES in child and adolescent development remains
uncertain. Should friends not be available, other relationships may be elastic
enough to serve the friendship functions enumerated earlier. Children with
friends are better off than children without friends, but if necessary, other
relationships may be substituted for friendships. Consequently, friendships are
best viewed as developmental advantages rather than developmental necessities,
and the current evidence concerning friendships as educational contexts should
be read in this light.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of three ERIC/EECE digests that
focus on children's peer relationships as educational contexts. These digests
are adapted from articles that originally appeared in the Fall 1991 (Vol. 19,
No. 1) issue of the EARLY REPORT of the University of Minnesota's Center for
Early Education and Development.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Hartup, Willard W., and Moore, Shirley
G. "Early Peer Relations: Developmental Significance and Prognostic
Implications." EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY 5 (March, 1990): 1-17.
Hartup, Willard W., and Laursen, Brett. CONTEXTUAL CONSTRAINTS AND CHILDREN'S
FRIENDSHIP RELATIONS. ERIC Document number ED 310 848.
Katz, Lilian G., and McClellan, Diane E. THE TEACHER'S ROLE IN THE SOCIAL
DEVELOPMENT OF YOUNG CHILDREN. Urbana, IL: ERIC/EECE, 1991. ED 331 642.
Ladd, Gary W. "Having Friends, Keeping Friends, Making Friends and Being
Liked by Peers in the Classroom: Predictors of Children's Early School
Adjustment?" CHILD DEVELOPMENT 61 (August, 1990): 1,081-1,100.