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Friendships Throughout Adolescence

Adolescence extends from the onset of puberty until the individual begins young adult life by entering the work force or undertaking postsecondary education. Because of the developmental tasks characteristic of this period, the meaning and values of friendship acquired during preadolescence continue and expand (Berndt 1996). Throughout this time, the typical adolescent encounters differing ideologies and values, a variety of activities to pursue or forego, and potential lifestyles to consider. The adolescent's two-fold "task" is to discover which options can and should be committed to, and to integrate them into a personal identity.

Although parents normally remain an important source of guidance and support, part of the adolescent's struggle is to work toward independence from them. Thus adolescents continue to rely on their parents for material support and instrumental rewards, normally respecting their ideals as sources of continuity and stability. They are less likely, however, to see their parents as helpful in developing their views on present and future issues. For their part, parents generally feel an obligation to socialize their adolescents "properly" and, hence, tend to be judgmental as their adolescent children explore different directions. Therefore, close friendships, because they involve nonjudgmental yet caring equals, help the adolescent develop a sense of identity by offering "a climate of growth and self-knowledge that the family is not equipped for" (Douvan and Adelson 1966, p. 174).

As they carry out their friendships, girls are more likely than boys to emphasize expressive rather than instrumental rewards. As in preadolescence, both girls and boys usually form friendships with members of their own sex. Even so, cross-gender friendships are not uncommon, and most adolescents maintain careful distinctions between opposite-sex partners who are friends and those who are romantic or dating partners. Where cross-gender friendships exist, both girls and boys find them valuable sources of information and insight about the opposite sex in a relationally neutral ("safe") context. Boys, especially, find cross-gender friendships advantageous because they provide expressive rewards that are not as readily available in their friendships with other boys. The qualities of cross-gender friendships evident in adolescence tend to persist throughout adulthood (Monsour 2002).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsFriendship - Definition And Characteristics, Benefits Of Friendship, Voluntariness And Contextual Factors In Friendship, Friendships Throughout Childhood