Teens Of A Feather Flock Together – Brief Article
HOW KIDS PICK THEIR PALS
“Why are you friends with that person?” The question that plagues concerned parents has been the focus of psychological studies since at least the early 1950s.
While older research often focused on a single ethnic group (often white adolescents) and a single reason they chose friends, a more recent study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology, examined three influencing factors among three ethnic groups.
“We know that friendship is important for adolescents as they figure out who they are. Having friends who share similar attitudes and behaviors is believed to make that process easier and more meaningful,” says Jill Harem, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina.
More than 6,500 African-American, Asian-American and Caucasian students at seven high schools were surveyed about their academic aspirations and achievements, ethnic identity and levels of substance use. The teens were asked to list five of their closest school friends. Researchers then compared traits of pairs of best friends.
The study revealed that while students in all three ethnic groups chose friends with a similar academic orientation, Asian and Caucasian adolescents did this more often than African-Americans. However, none of the subject pairs indicated that they chose one another primarily due to ethnic identity. The Asian, African and Caucasian students were all similar to their best friends in terms of self-reported drug use. In addition, choosing a friend with the same level of substance use was a very strong factor when students chose friends from different ethnic groups.
Despite the fairly consistent findings in this and other developmental relationship studies, Hamm emphasizes that differences among adolescents may be as important as their similarities. “What this study suggested is that the similarity was there, but the kids are not nominating friends that are reporting identical levels of behaviors and values,” Harem says. “To find a unique sense of self you may not want to affiliate with people who are identical to you, but you do need to have some common ground.”
COPYRIGHT 2001 Sussex Publishers, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group