How Friendship Can Increase Resilience
You’ll meet a lot of people going through life.
Many of those people will barely register anything more than an acquaintance. But a select few will be lucky enough to call you friend.
Friends can be an important part of your life. Being connected socially is even a big part of having great brain health.
Why is that?
For one reason, friendship helps you deal with adversity in your life. And being able to deal with adversity is a key to a resilient mind.
Research recently published in the British Journal of Psychology looked into the question of how much friendship helps you deal with the stresses in your life.
The scientists were particularly interested in how it affects children from low income neighborhoods. Mostly because they are hit harder than others in certain areas of life. They typically have decreased physical and mental health, as well as less academic achievement.
Other research has linked these difficulties to interaction with peers and larger groups, but no one had really looked into how a best friend could make a person more resilient. Someone who is more self-reliant, bounces back from hardship, and can take meaning from difficult circumstances.
Dr. Graber, an author on the study, explains the need for research into this area:
“Research into promoting resilience in young people has concentrated on support from the family, but friendships are important too. Boys’ and girls’ best friendships are an important source of meaning and strength in the face of substantial adversity.”
They looked at over 400 students between the ages of 11 and 19 among three schools and two colleges. The students underwent assessments for the quality of their friendships, how they dealt with adversity, and what coping mechanisms they used.
Not surprisingly, best friendships among boys and girls promoted more effective coping mechanisms.
They were more resilient to complicated situations. And they did so through things like planning, looking at situations with a more positive perspective, and also through simple emotional support.
The data also revealed a difference between boy and girl best friend relationships.
Scientists found that relationships among girls could promote some not-so-great coping mechanisms. There was a tendency for their friendships to cultivate self-blame and substance abuse to deal with adversity. This was something not seen in friendships among boys.
But here’s the biggest takeaways. Their was a positive relationship between the quality of friendships and resilience. And this was found with even when a child had just one quality friend.
Focus on the Positive
A lot of the recent literature on relationships, especially with boys, has focused on the negative. How they can influence maladaptive behaviors that lead to poor outcomes.
Again, Dr. Graber comments on this:
“There has also been almost a distrust of friendship between boys, with research concentrating on the negative side of belonging to a gang. But that isn’t the whole story.”
In certain situations, the friendships with the wrong people can have some negative consequences. Situations, I would argue, where people want to belong, but it’s with a group of people who don’t have their best interests at heart.
In short, situations where the friendship isn’t real. At least not how I would define it.
Dr. Graber sums up the study by saying:
“Our research suggests that boys’ best friendships may be intimate, trustworthy and supportive, even as they face social pressures towards a stoic or macho masculinity.”
Onward and Upward
There’s obviously other research that backs up Dr. Graber’s thoughts on the matter.
For one, friendships can make a child more physically active.
They can also make a difference as early as kindergarten, where one study showed that quality friendships can predict fewer behavioral problems and better social skills.
To drive the point home even more, the development of early social skills can spell success for children later in life. Especially those of lower income neighborhoods. If you’re a parent, just make sure they’re friends with good people.
For the most part, I think it goes without saying. Friendships matter. Even if it’s only one quality friendship.