Friendships are tremendously vital during one’s teenage and adolescent years. They help the youth feel that they belong and they are accepted. Additionally, teenage bonds have shown to have a major impact on developing one’s emotional and mental health. They play a big role in creating a sense of identity aside from the family. Although it is a fact that these friendships can have a negative effect, more often than not, they have shown to provide a range of advantages for the youth especially in fighting against bullying.
Benefits of Strong Teen Friendships
Social bonds like teen friendships have several benefits, which include but are not limited to:
- Better self-confidence
- Boosted immune system
- Reduced incidence of stress, depression, and anxiety
- More optimistic and happier mood
- Stronger mental and emotional intelligence
- Enhanced cognitive skills
- Shows more compassion, trust, and empathy
The Connection Between Happiness And Friendship
Undeniably, having great friends lightens our daily challenges and gives us a happier outlook. Research shows that positive young friendships are linked with positive psychological wellness. Robin Dunbar, Ph.D., a professor of evolutionary psychology, claims that “At a psychological level, having friends just makes you happier.” He added, “The kinds of things that you do around the table with other people are very good at triggering the endorphin system, which is part of the brain’s pain-management system. Endorphins are opioids, they are chemically related to morphine – they are produced by the brain and give you an opiate high.”
Furthermore, a study that investigated teenagers with great friends and mental health revealed that teens with more good friends experienced less anxiety and depressive symptoms. They had less insecurity in themselves and had a better perception of society and of life in general.
Teens And Adolescents Are Meant To Have Friends
As a person journeys into adolescence, friendships become more and more significant. And it’s true that children ignore their parents when they are in their teenage years because they are more into their friends from school and their neighborhood. However, this is a natural course of growing up, says Daniel Siegel, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center co-director. He believes that the youth’s interest in creating friendships is intrinsic. It is biologically ingrained.
Moreover, teen and adolescent friendships are so vital that these young people can’t live without them – literally. Proof of this is revealed in an imaging study done at Michigan University, which showed that teenagers’ brains perceived social rejection as physical pain. This means that when they feel bullied, left out, or ridiculed, they feel it deeply and physically.
Adult Emotional And Mental Health Depend On Strong Teen Friendships
The journal Child Development published a new study comparing teens aged 15 and 16 who had few friends but the bonds they had were intense, to those who were popular in school and had many friends, although with less strong bonds. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that those teens with close-knit friendships had higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression and anxiety when they reached the age of 25. The teens that didn’t have very close friendships but had more friends didn’t show significant positive changes.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude, through the study, that teens and adolescents who give importance to creating strong friendships are more capable of managing their emotions and are better equipped socially. The support and affection of sincere friends help teens overcome judgment and insults and more capable of fighting against bullying and other forms of violence. It is not important that one is popular. What’s significant is that the teen’s relationships are sincere and deep.
Amanda Cook Maher, Ph.D., who is a postdoctoral fellow at the Northwestern University’s Clinical Neuropsychology program, mentions that “There is a body of prior research that suggests social integration, engagement with family, and emotional support from a social network are positively associated with cognitive function in older adults.”
Strong Teen Friendships Help Reduce Stress
Teenagers who go through breakups, grief, rejection, or depression are able to stand up quickly when they have best friends who stay with them through thick and thin. Time and again, it has been proven that coping with stress is easier for teens that have friends that they trust and can relate to. Reports revealed that these teens:
- Don’t worry too much
- Have decreased levels of grief and sadness
- Are less envious
- Happier compared to the rest of the teens their age
Ultimately, when a person develops strong, deep friendships in his teenage and adolescent years, they have a better understanding of who they are, what they are capable of, and what they do and don’t deserve. Florida Atlantic University’s psychology professor, Brett Laursen, Ph.D., stressed the importance of strong teen friendships. “These friendships could help with people’s emotional development, too. Adolescent relationships might help people learn certain social and emotional skills that benefit them for life,” claims Dr. Laursen.
Thus, they must be encouraged to create new friendships that are positive and have a good influence on them, and to keep and nourish the old friendships that are worth holding on to. When one has the ability to maintain friendships and to choose between right and wrong, he is on his way to a better, stronger, and mentally healthier life ahead.