New research shows how early childhood friendships can impact your future

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Early friendships can impact your future, research shows
New research from from Catherine Bagwell, Ph.D., found that having close friends early in life helps a great deal down the road.

At what point do friends start to matter in a person's life?

New research reveals the relationships you have in elementary school may be key to your future well-being.

When Ellie Newborn had a problem with a friend, her mom felt it was a good opportunity to give her a life lesson about friendship.

"It teaches you what to expect from other people. It teaches you how to show up for other people," said Susan Newborn.

Psychologists say friendship is more than just having someone to play with, it can determine a person's emotional, social and mental well-being later in life.

Catherine Bagwell, Ph.D., of Emory University studied friendships between children and adolescents.

She believes that friends really are relationships between two people who see themselves as equals.

"How do friendships in pre-adolescents, around 5th grade, how do they predict outcomes in early adulthood?" she said.

Her research found having close friends early in life helps a great deal down the road.

"Those children were much less likely to show symptoms of depression in early adulthood," Bagwell said.

And that's not all, she said, "Kids who have supportive friendships are more likely to be engaged in school."

What can parents do to encourage their child to be a good friend? Bagwell said teach your children the importance of cooperation, sharing things and ideas.

Talk to them about managing conflict and make sure you know who your child's friends are.

Ellie has moved on from the friendship that didn't make her feel good.

But hopefully many young children will learn that some friendships last a lifetime.