Striving for Connection: Friendships in Adolescence

Friendships in Adolescence:

Number of best friends decline and the most important characteristics of these friends are:

  1. Intimacy
  2. Mutual understanding
  3. Loyalty

Gender Differences in Friendship: 

  • Emotional closeness is more common between girls than boys
  • Boys’ discussions usually focus on accomplishments and mastery issues
  • Girls’ friendships typically focus on communal concerns
  • Boys’ tend to focus on achievement and status
  • For both genders, other-sex friends increases with age even though same-sex friends are more common

The Internet & Friendships:

  • About 77% of U.S. 12 to 17 year olds have a cell phone
  • Texting is the number one type of electronic interaction between teenage friends
  • Girls are more likely to text and contact friends than boys
  • About 80% of U.S. teenagers use social networking sites
  • Time that adolescents spend on social networking is increasing

Friendship and Adjustment: 

  1. Close friendships provide opportunities to explore the self and develop a deep understanding of another
  2. Close friendships provide a foundation for future intimate relationships
  3. Close friendships help young people deal with the stresses of adolescence
  4. Close friendships can improve adolescents’ attitudes towards involvement in school

Cliques and Crowds:

Cliques: Groups of about five to eight members who are friends and, therefore, usually resemble one another in family background, attitudes, values and interests. 

Crowd: A more loosely organized group with several cliques.

There are positives to both of these different social groups. Cliques help adolescents grow in social skills and further their understanding of values and roles. Whereas a crowd help and adolescent understand their identity apart from their family and how they belong in a larger community.

Prominent crowds U.S.
Within North America and European high schools different crowds that are described are: 

  1. Brains – Academic
  2. Jocks – Sports
  3. Populars – Leaders with high peer acceptance
  4. Partyers – Socialize & don’t care about school
  5. Nonconformists – Like unconventional clothing & music
  6. Burnouts – Use drugs and alcohol, engage in risky behaviors
  7. Normals – Average students, get along with peers

Gender Typing:

Gender intensification – increased gender stereotyping of attitudes and behavior, and movement toward a more traditional gender identity. This is typically stronger for adolescent girls. Also, this typically declines by late adolescence.


  • Approximately 25% of adolescents at the age of 12 reported that they had been involved in a romantic relationship… there is a positive linear relationship between age and the percentage of adolescents in a relationship.
  • About 10-20% of adolescents are physically or sexually abused by their dating partner
  • Adolescent boys’ typically gain status by dating whereas adolescent  girls experience conflict and jealousy

References: Many of the material used for this post is derived from the Developmental Psychology course with Dr. Jessica Fales at Washington State University.

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