Article by "Danby, S. (2008) Establishing and sustaining friends over a lifetime is essential for individual well-being, and for emotional and social support over the life trajectory. Critical times can include transitions in school contexts, major family upheaval and personal life crises. Friendships are important for children because friends help each other understand the world in which they live. It is known that the quality of children’s friendships affects their development of a sense of personal and social identity, but more research is required to understand how friendship patterns and relationships are connected to children’s moral, social and emotional development (Dunn, 2004).Children with friends, even one friend, have better social skills and fewer adjustment problems. Friends provide social support and can protect against the difficulties of starting school, the birth of a sibling, family conflict and different family settings (such as stepfamilies), behaviour troubles, victimisation and bullying (Dunn, 2004; Dunn et al.,2001). Children starting school seem to like school better and adjust better if they have formed friendships (Ladd, 1990).
It is not clear yet whether children’s early friendships can positively affect adult adjustment, academic achievements and life fulfilment (Bagwell et al., 1998). Further longitudinal studies are required that examine the value of early friendships in protecting against later social isolation and withdrawal. It may be that the collective experiences of friendship are as important as any particular relationship (Dunn, 2004).Children’s friendships have typically been described based on interviews and very little research has been undertaken into how children actually manage their everyday friendships and social interactions. Further longitudinal research is also required to examine the role of friendships and their impact on the life trajectory as children move from childhood to adulthood.
Susan Danby, Professor of Early Childhood, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, Australia • Friendships are another important component of children’s developing identities, as they move out of family care and into group care settings.
• Friendships sustain well-being through periods of adversity or transition.
• Having friends and being liked by other children sustains children’s sense of self, especially
during vulnerable times.