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Developmental Psychology on Friendship - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 105
Friendship/Developmental psychology/Upton: Middle childhood brings clear changes in the understanding of friendship.
Early childhood: here, friendships are transient in nature and are often related to the availability of the other person. A friend is defined as someone you play with or with whom you share some other activity. In middle childhood, children’s relationships still tend to be with others who are similar to themselves; this is partly because children are more likely to come into proximity because of similarities in age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, etc. However, there is also evidence that children also become increasingly similar to their friends as they interact (Hartup, 1996)(1).
Middle childhood: children begin to identify the special features of friendship that supersede mere proximity. During this period of development, children begin to recognise that friendships provide companionship, help, protection and support (Azmitia et aL, 1998)(2), are reciprocal (Selman, 1980)(3), demand trust and loyalty (Bigelow, 1977)(4) and last over time (Parker and Seal. 1996)(5).
That is not to say that friendships made in middle childhood endure for long periods. School-age children often have what have been called ‘fair-weather friends’, because friendships at this age are often unable to survive periods of conflict or disagreement (Rubin et al.. 1998)(6).
Upton I 106
Gender differences: There also appear to be gender differences in the time it takes to mend broken friendships. Azmitia et al. (1998)(2) observed that, following friendship conflict, boys would typically work it through and renew the friendship in one day, whereas girls would take about two weeks.
This may be because triads are more common in the friendships of school-age girls than in those of boys, causing one member of the group to feel left out. By the end of middle childhood, friendships are becoming intimate, and are characterised by an enduring sense of trust in each other.
The ability to engage in mutual role-taking and collaborative negotiation develops throughout this period, leading to greater loyalty, trust and social support. For example, Azmitia et al. (1998)(2) found that girls’ expectations that friends would keep secrets rose from 25 per cent in eight to nine year olds, to 72 per cent in 11 to 12 year olds. However, this expectation developed slightly later in boys. Thus, the ability to form close, intimate friendships becomes increasingly important as children move towards early adolescence (Buhrmester, 1990)(7).



1. Hartup. WW (1996) The company they keep: friendships and their developmental signifi
cance. Child Development, 67: 1-13.
2. Azmitia, M, Kamprath, N and Linnet, J (1998) Intimacy and conflict: on the dynamics of boys’ and gir1s friendships during middle childhood and adolescence, in Meyer, L, Grenot-Scheyer, M, Harry, B, Park, H and Schwartz, I (eds) Understanding the Social Lives of Children and Youth. Baltimore, MD: PH Brookes.
3. Selman, RL (1980) The Growth of Interpersonal Understanding. New York: Academic Press.
4. Bigelow, BJ (1977) Children’s friendship expectations: a cognitive-developmental study.
Child Development, 48: 246-53.
5. Parker, JG and Seal, J (1996) Forming, losing, renewing and replacing friendships: applying temporal parameters to the assessment of children’s friendship experiences. Child Development, 67(5): 2248-68.
6. Rubin, KH, Bukowski, W and Parker, JG (1998) Peer interactions, relationships, and groups,
in Eisenberg, N (ed.) Handbook of Child Psychology, Vol. 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th edn). New York: Wiley.
7. Buhrmester, D (1990) Intimacy of friendship, interpersonal competence, and adjustment
During preadolescence and adolescence. Child Development, 61: 1101-11.

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Upton I 120
Friendship/adolescence/Developmental psychology/Upton: Friendships are (…) gradually becoming more stable during [adolescence] (Epstein, 1986)(1), although they may be disrupted by transitions such as changing class or school (Wargo Aikins et al., 2005)(2). >Peer relationships/Developmental psychology.
Upton I 121
However, high-quality friendships, which are marked by intimacy, openness and warmth, are more likely to be maintained despite such transitions (Wargo Aikins et al., 2005)(2).
Indeed, there is an increased emphasis on intimacy and self-disclosure throughout adolescence (Zarbatany et al., 2000)(3), although there is some evidence to suggest that greater levels of intimacy are reported by girls than by boys (Buhrmester, 1996)(4). This increasing intimacy and self-disclosure has been suggested to be fundamentally important for the adolescent’s developing sense of self, as well as for the understanding of relationships (Parker and Gottman, 1989)(5). >Self/Developmental psychology, >Youth culture/Developmental psychology.



1. Epstein, JL (1986) Friendship selection: developmental and environmental influences, in Meuller, E and Cooper, C (eds) Process and Outcome in Peer Relationship. New York: Academic Press.
2. Wargo Aitkins, J, Bierman, K and Parker, JG (2005) Navigating the transition to junior high school: the influence of pre-transition friendship and self-system characteristics. Social Development, 14:42-60.
3. Zarbatany, L, McDougall, P and Hymel, S (2000) Gender-differentiated experience in the peer culture: links to intimacy in preadolescence. Social Development, 9(1): 6 2-79.
4. Buhrmester, D (1996) Need fulfillment, interpersonal competence, and the developmental contexts of early adolescent friendship, in Bukowski, W, Newcomb, A and Hartup, W (eds) The Company They Keep. New York: Cambridge University Press.
5. Parker, J and Gottman, 1(1989) Social and emotional development in a relational context, in Bernat, T and Ladd, G (eds) Peer Relationships in Child Development. New York: Wiley and Sons.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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