Children’s Friendships

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

Making friends, losing friends, keeping friends...through the use of psychological and literary texts, we will explore the important functions of friendship for children and adolescents. During this century, psychologists have assumed that adults serve as the major social influence on a child’s developing sense of self and personality, that perhaps only toward adolescence would children’s social relations with peers come to play an important role in their lives. We now know better. In recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in the study of friendships and peer relations throughout childhood, even in toddlerhood. The important psychological benefits of having friends are increasingly recognized. So, too, are the potential problems of its obverse: Children who are truly without friends are at greater risk for later social-emotional difficulties. We will explore the writings of major theorists such as Sullivan, Youniss, Selman, and Rubin; read and discuss the recent studies that have observed “friendship in the making”; and examine what friendship means to children and adolescents in their own words. In addition, fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere will be encouraged, so that students can have firsthand knowledge of children’s social relations. Prior course in psychology is required.