The Best Friendships of Why/Withdrawn Middle Schoolers
King, Shakeena Jasmine
Rubin, Kenneth H
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Social withdrawal during childhood and adolescence tends to be associated with many outcome such as peer difficulties, and internalizing problems (see Rubin, Coplan, & Bowker 2009). Given the buffering effects of friendship, researchers have also suggested that friendship may help mitigate the negative outcomes socially withdrawn individuals experience throughout their life (e.g. Bukowski, Laursen, & Hoza, 2010) Research pertaining to social withdrawal and friendship quality tends to be rich in nature; however, more research is needed examining socially withdrawn children’s friendship quality and quantity during the middle school years and beyond. Given that friendships tend to have an impact on one’s social development, and peers become increasingly important during adolescence (see Brown & Larson, 2009 for a review), it is important to study friendship quality and quantity beyond the elementary school years. The purpose of this study was to investigate the quality and quantity of friendships among socially withdrawn 6th and 8th graders. Specifically the following study was use to examine whether differences in friendship quality and quantity exist between socially withdrawn 6th graders and 8th graders, to investigate how socially withdrawn children’s mutual best friendships function during middle school years compared to those of typical children, to discover possible gender differences in friendship quality that may occur for socially withdrawn young adolescents, to expand the literature on social withdrawal and its possible association with friendship quantity and quality during early adolescence. The mutual best friendships of shy/withdrawn and control children were examined for prevalence, stability and friendship quality. Through peer nominations of shy/withdrawn and aggressive behaviors that were reported on the Extended Class Play (Rubin et al., 2006), the Shy/Withdrawn and Control groups for the 6th and 8th grade sample were identified from a sample of 6th graders and 8th graders. The Shy/Withdrawn group consisted of 72 8th graders and 152 6th graders and the Control group consisted of 85 8th graders and 158 6th graders. After identifying the groups, the best friend dyads visited the lab and completed several questionnaires such as the The Network of Relationships Inventory (NRI; Furman & Buhrmester, 1985). Consistent with Rubin and colleagues’ (2006) study, findings revealed that shy/withdrawn children were just as likely as control children to have mutual best friendships in both the 6th grade and 8th grade. Furthermore, 6th graders, compared to 8th graders, were more likely to report having a mutual best friend. In terms of the characteristics of the target groups’ best friendships, using the aggression, shy/withdrawn, and peer rejection/victimization ECP factors, no significant group differences were found among the 6th grade sample. Only in the 8th grade sample, shy/withdrawn best friends were significantly more likely to be shy/withdrawn and experience peer rejection and victimization. However, no significant group differences between shy/withdrawn and control young adolescents were found in terms of friendship quality on the NRI. Only significant age differences were found in the NRI in which 8th graders as a whole, compared to the 6th graders, were more likely to rate their friendship quality higher. Furthermore, no significant gender differences in terms of best friendships were found in the 6th grade and 8th grade. Future research involving longitudinal samples on how socially withdrawn adolescents form best friendships is encouraged in order to identify the possible trends and factors associated with forming best friendships and their friendship quality from childhood to adolescence. It may be possible that because early adolescence is a developmental period when peer relationships play a more important role in one’s life, young adolescents, regardless of whether or not they are withdrawn, actively form friendships with others in order to fulfill the need to fit in and form relationships with others. Furthermore, for future studies, researchers should investigate the best friendships of socially withdrawn children and young adolescents based on their motivations for withdrawal since socially withdrawn behavior is not exclusive to only shyness and possible differences in friendship prevalence and stability may exist between these different motivations of social withdrawal.