Your Teenage Best Friend Could Be Your Best Medicine

The term “bff” might be thrown around a little too loosely these days, but its proliferation throughout the blogosphere is certainly significant. At least, this may be true according to a new study published in the journal Child Development.

In the study, researchers note that teenagers between the ages of 15 and 16 who had a close friendship with one person (a “bff” for example) had a greater sense of self-worth, by the age of 25, than those of the same age who had a larger group of “good friends.”

Lead study author Rachel K. Narr suggests that people who have a long-term relation with a close, best friend were also more likely to have reduced experiences of depression and anxiety.

The University of Virginia postdoctoral student of clinical psychology goes on to say, “Close friendship strength in mid-adolescence predicted relative increases in self-worth and decreases in anxiety and depressive symptoms by early adulthood.”

Now, existing research already suggests that adolescent friendships are, perhaps, more important than we often realize.  The relationships we forge during the post-adolescent (but pre-adult) years tend to be quite excellent predictors of academic success and eventual mental health.  The new research, then, delves a little deeper into the types of relationships and friendships that teenagers form.

She argues that, in terms of positive outcomes later in life, “My hunch was that close friendships compared to broader friendship groups and popularity may not function the same way. Being successful in one is not the same as being successful in the other.”

Again, this is not the first study to examine adolescent relationships.  In fact, this study mirrors several other studies which show that teenagers look to have “popularity” but there are two basic types.  There are “likable” people—peers trust them and want to be around them—and there are “status” people who seek popularity so they can use it to have power over others.

Now, this particular study does have its limitations. For one, it is nearly impossible to truly gauge how friendships might result in strengthening or lessening depression or how that might influence their ability or willingness to make friends. Also, the study completed before social media became a force in the social lives of teens all over the planet.

As such, study co-author and UV professor of psychology Joseph Allen comments, “As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority.”

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