A recent study on teen friendships supports the colloquial idea that “misery loves company.”1 Researchers from Florida Atlantic University looked at the degree to which internalizing symptoms predicted the dissolution of teen friendships. Internalizing symptoms were defined as anxiety, depression, social withdrawal and submissiveness.
The 2 questions being asked
The questions being asked were “do friendships end because of one child’s mental health problems, or do they end because of differences between friends on the degree to which each friend suffers from these problems?”
Interestingly, friendships were not seen to dissolve due to mental health problems. In fact, the more similar individuals were seen to have internalizing symptoms, the more likely they were to remain friends.
Study looked at 397 adolescents (194 boys, 203 girls) in 499 same-sex friendships
The study looked at 397 adolescents (194 boys, 203 girls) in 499 same-sex friendships. The cohort was followed from grade 7 (median age 13), through the end of high school (grade 12). The study was conducted in Connecticut. Discrete-time survival analyses were conducted with grade 7 peer, teacher, and self-reports of internalizing symptoms as predictors of the timing of friendship dissolution.
The results found zero support that internalizing symptoms – anxiety, depression, etc – predicted the end of friendships, even when these symptoms were seen at extreme or clinical levels.
Authors of the study comment on the results
The authors of the study comment on the results: “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.”
Which friendships were sustainable and why
In fact, the results point to the fact that friendships are maintained through similarity. The more friends differed on anxiety and depression symptoms, the more likely they were to have friendship instability. The more youths resembled one another the more likely they were to remain friends from year to year.
The one exception
The one exception to this was that differences in submissiveness in boys increased friendship instability in boys, but not in girls. The theory of this discrepancy is due to the often-competitive nature of boys, especially at these ages.
Guimond FA, Laursen B, Hartl AC, Cillessen AHN. Differences in Internalizing Symptoms Anticipate Adolescent Friendship Dissolution. J Res Adolesc. 2018
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.