How Does the Nature of Children’s Friendship Change with Age

Saturday December 11, 2021

How does the nature of children’s friendship change with age? Within this essay I will be looking at how children’s friendships change in nature as they age. I will begin first by defining what is meant by the term friendship. I will then examine theories on stage and age development in relation to the development of friendships, exploring research which suggests that the nature of a child’s friendship is based on their age. I will look at conflicting research which suggests that although stage’s of friendship may be categorized, that there is conflicting research to suggest the ages at which this behaviour manifests itself may not be the same for each child. Finally I will summarize by concluding how the nature of children’s friendship changes with age. The very definition of what the term friendship actually means in itself is difficult to clarify and categorize. A dictionary definition defines friendship as an attachment from mutual esteem, and a friend as someone who is loving or attached to another. As an adult it can seem easy to define who are friends are, they are like minded individuals whom we share common interests with, people we trust and socialize with. Other people within our adult life are associates, work colleagues or general acquaintances. The category of friend is reserved for those whom we have developed a bond with and in most cases an emotional attachment to. However, when we consider this in relation to the nature of children’s friendship this dictionary definition and an adults view of friendship may not hold true for all children. It also over simplifies the nature and dynamics involved in friendship. Barnes (2003, pg 49) highlights this when he discusses the many experiences children have of friendship, and the emotions and experiences these friendships expose children to, for example it affords them the opportunity to share experiences, develop communication and develop a sense of closeness to another person, however in contrast to this Barnes tells us that friendships in childhood introduces children to a to conflict situations and emotions such as jealousy, anger and loneliness. Best to leave a line space between paragraphs. The significance of childhood friendships can be a difficult area to gauge. The importance of these relationships and the subsequent impact on a child is not something which can be measured with any certainty. Allison James, an anthropologist, states the difficulty of guaging impact but also acknowledges the significance of childhood relationships and the importance of these ‘friendships’ in preparing children for later life and adult roles. participation in this tangled web of social relationships helps to shape identity and sense of self which is assumed as s/he moves towards adulthood to become a person in society………. the actual process of socialisation can only ever be haltingly documented” (James, 1993 cited in Kehily and Swann, 2003. pg 51). James admission that research in this area can be difficult to record and analyse is supported by Barnes when he discusses the reminiscing of childhood by adults in later life “none of this is to deny the the value of personal reminiscence…….. ut it serves as a reminder not just to accept it in an unquestioning way” ( Barnes, 2003, pg. 51) American psychologist Robert Selman supports the theory that the nature of children’s friendships is influenced by their social understanding which develops as they age. Selman carried out research whereby he posed ‘dilemma’s’ through scenarios to children aged between three and fifteen, he then questioned the children on their solutions to these dilemma’s and recorded these interviews. In doing this Selman came to the conclusion that the nature of friendship could be categorized into four distinct stages, related to four distinct ages. Barnes (2003, pg 56) outlines Selman’s four stages, ‘Momentary physical playmate” this is the stage whereby children, usually around the age of three to five will categorize their friends as those who live in their locality, go to the same school and who partake in similar activities. The second stage is ‘ One-way assistance’ this is the stage whereby children do things to please another, within this stage Selman acknowledges that although at this stage children may try to adapt to others the friendship is still one sided and there is little evidence of the reciprocal nature of friendship, the age at which this occurs in most children is between the age of six to eight years old. The third stage of Selmans theory is the “fairweather co-operation” stage usually evident in children aged between nine and twelve years. Within this stage children begin to see the consequence of their actions and begin to act accordingly, that is to say they appreciate that their actions and the actions of their friends are now evaluated and hence they begin to become adaptable taking into account the thoughts, needs and preferences of their ‘friends’. Within this stage Selman argues that children may encounter conflict and disagreements which in turn may cause these friendships to peter out as opposed to enduring. Selmans final stage is called “mutual concern” this is usually seen around the ages of eleven to fifteen. Within this stage Selmans research suggested that children have developed the skills required to develop stronger friendships based on a mutal understanding Within this stage friendships can survive minor conflicts, Selman acknowledges the fact that, through his research, he found the way in which children describe their friendship has now changed, he found that descriptions were not based on physical descriptions, which had been the case with younger children but were now based on psychological attributes. Selman’s theories on stage development of friendships can be compared with other researchers who also concluded that their were specific points in a child’s life whereby the nature of their friendship differed dependent on age, Barnes


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