• how to make friends teens

How Teens Make Friends: What the Research Says

how to make friends teens

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been pouring through research on connectivity and friendship. Literally, some days I am feeling my way to the refrigerator (to refill a sippy cup, no doubt) while glued to some article that delves into human attachment.

This collection of research provides an overview of the existing knowledge base about community and friendship. I am hoping it will serve as inspiration for the questions I’ll ask in my upcoming interviews. [Willing to let me interview you? Leave a comment on the first post in the research series.]

Last week, I offered a summary of how children first learn to relate to other humans, and  today, I’ll share a few tidbits about how interactions continue to develop as we grow into our teens.


  • Around 10 to 14, Rawlins says kids can engage in mutuality and understanding, responding to other kids based on personality traits and emotional styles (easy going, mean, and so on).
  • Preadolescent kids often seek a same sex best friend (Sullivan, 1953).
  • Through friendships at this stage, kids learn to practice virtues like empathy, unselfishness, and loyalty. But because kids can be exclusive at this age, they might also prompt cliquishness and tension between groups of friends.
  • Adolescence is the time where kids begin paying attention to how others are the same or different than them. (Prager, 1995, pp. 131-133).
  • Adolescence is also the period where kids seek to find their identity through their story and biography. They begin to seek meaning in the factual events of their childhood and early life. Their ability to form a clear story guides their actions, emotions, and traits. (McAdams, 1989, pp. 156-159).
  • Girls’ friendships tend to be more exclusively pair-oriented while boys gravitate to groups of friends. Girls tend to talk “gossip” and emphasize secrets, while boys like to be active together. These contrasts between how the two genders experience friendship often bleed over into adulthood.
  • Although parents are an important source of guidance and support, adolescents are trying to move toward independence. They rely on their parents for material support and stability, but are less likely to seek their parents’ views on present and future issues (Douvan and Adelson 1966, p. 174).
  • Because friendship offers equality, it is often seen as more desirable than relationships with parents in which there is a clear power structure (Youniss, 1980).
  • During early adolescence, North American kids reduce time spent with family by 50% (Westen, 1996, p. 547).
  • Cross-gender friendships are not uncommon, and can be a source of insight when perceived as “safe” and distinguished from dating relationships. The qualities of cross-gender friendships evident in adolescence can also extend throughout adulthood (Monsour 2002).


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1 Comment

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    Rob October 8, 2014 (6:34 pm)

    I have teenagers and I have to say most of this stuff seems right on. In fact it makes me feel a little better to know some of their behavior might just have to do with their life stage.

    I would like to hear more about how kids find belonging among different groups or cliques at school. It sounds so overplayed in movies and stuff, but the whole popular kids and mean girls and all that hits pretty close to real life for one of my kids.