Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Middle school is when the right friends may matter most

Date:
January 12, 2011
Source:
University of Oregon
Summary:
As adolescents move from elementary school into their middle or junior-high years, changes in friendships may signal potential academic success or troubles down the road, say researchers.

As adolescents move from elementary school into their middle or junior-high years, changes in friendships may signal potential academic success or troubles down the road, say University of Oregon researchers.

Related Articles


A new study, appearing in the February issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence, found that boys and girls whose friends are socially active in ways where rules are respected do better in their classroom work. Having friends who engage in problem behavior, in contrast, is related to a decrease in their grades. Having pro-social friends and staying away from deviant peers proved more effective for academic payoffs than simply being friends with high-achieving peers.

The middle school/junior high years are a major transition for children, as students move away from grade-school classrooms led by one teacher every day into an environment of multiple classes with different teachers and opportunities to make new friends. This new study -- conducted by Marie-Helene Veronneau and Thomas J. Dishion of the UO Child and Family Center -- focused solely on the role played by friendship on academic achievement.

Their findings emerged from data collected in a longitudinal study of 1,278 students -- 55 percent of them girls -- done previously by center researchers. In that study, students named their three best friends. Instead of relying on student reports of their peers' behaviors and grades, researchers in the new study looked specifically at behavioral and academic records of the friends.

A surprise discovery was that girls who already were struggling academically in sixth grade actually suffered later when their chosen friends were already those making the highest grades, Veronneau said. "We don't know the mechanisms on why it is this way for girls, but we can speculate that girls compare themselves to their friends and then decide they are not doing very well. Perhaps this affects their self-efficacy and belief in their own abilities."

For girls already doing well in sixth grade, however, there was an opposite influence. "It could be for these girls, having friends who also are getting good grades, school is challenging and stimulating, and they end up doing better than expected," she said.

The study's findings clearly show that in the middle school years "a great deal of learning is taking place that is not being attended to," said Dishion, director of the Child and Family Center and professor of school psychology. "Puberty is taking place. The brain is changing rapidly. Kids' brains are almost wired to be reading the social world to see how they fit in, and the school is the arena for it."

These transitional years may be pivotal, Dishion said. In a previous longitudinal study, he said, he and colleagues looked at the impacts of peer relationships of young people at ages 13, 15 and 17 to look for predictive indicators of life adjustments at age 24. Those influences at age 13 -- going back to middle school -- were the most influential, he noted. While instruction is school is vitally important, he said, it may be that more eyes should be looking at shifting peer relationships.

In their conclusions, Dishion and Veronneau suggested that responsible adults -- at school and at home -- "should pay special attention" to changes in friendships and encourage students to pursue and participate in adult-supervised activities to promote pro-social relationships.

"Parents should pay attention to what their kids are doing and with whom they hang out," Veronneau said. "If parents notice that there is a shift in a child's friendship network, they should try to get to know those kids, talk with teachers and communicate naturally with their own child about where they are going and when they will be coming home."

The research was supported through grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Veronneau and from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health to Dishion.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oregon. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Oregon. "Middle school is when the right friends may matter most." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112141248.htm>.
University of Oregon. (2011, January 12). Middle school is when the right friends may matter most. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112141248.htm
University of Oregon. "Middle school is when the right friends may matter most." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112141248.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins