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Children and Their Friends

As young children become more outgoing and are exposed to a wider variety of peers, they typically form close ties to one or more playmates-bonds that we call friendships. In this portion of the chapter we will first consider how children define friendships and see what they expect from their “special” companions. We will then compare the social interactions of friends with those of acquaintances and discuss some of the roles that friends may play in a person’s social and emotional development.

Children’s Conceptions of Friends and Friendships
What qualifies someone as a friend? Recall from our discussion in chapter 4 that the answer seems to depend on the child’s age and level social-cognitive development (Berndt, 1988; Selman, 1980). Before age 8 the principal basis for friendship is common activity; children view friends as associates who nearby, who enjoy similar play activities, and who like to play with them. Between 8 and 12, children’s ever-increasing abilities to assume other people’s perspectives enable them to become more proficient at inferring one another’s needs, motives, intentions, and desires. Now the bases for friendship are relevant psychological similarities-shared interests, traits, and motives-as well as an expectation that friends can be trusted to be loyal, kind, cooperative, and sensitive to each other’s social and emotional needs (Berndt, 1986; Reid et al., 1989; Rotenberg and Mann, 1986).
Although adolescents continue to think that trustworthiness and shared psychological attributes are characteristics that friends should display, their conceptions of friendship now focus much more intently on reciprocal emotional commitments. Friends are viewed as intimate associates who truly understand and accept each other’s strengths and short  comings and are willing to discuss their innermost thoughts and feelings. Indeed, 16-to17 years old say that, above all, friends are people whom they can count on for guidance , intimate emotional support, and validation of their worth as an individual (Parker & Gottman, 1989); Smollar & Youniss, 1982). So, for older adolescents, close friendship seems to imply a unit relation or a “shared identity” in which “me and you” have become a “we” (Hartup, 1983).
Social Interactions among Friends and Acquaintances
As early as age 2 to 3, children  are establishing mutual (or reciprocated) friendships and are reacting very differently to friends than to mere acquaintances ( Hartup, 1989; Howes, 1988). For example, friends display more advanced forms of social play than acquaintances do-as well as more affection and more approval (Guralnick & Groom, 1988; Hinde et al., 1985). Indeed, friends often do nice things for each other, and many altruistic behaviors may first appear within these early alliances of the preschool era. Frederick Kanfer and his associates (1981), for example, found that 3-to6-year-olds were generally willing to give up their own valuable playtime to perform a dull task if their efforts would benefit a friend; yet this same kind of self sacrifice was almost never made complete description
Are There Distinct Advantages to Having Friends?
Do friends play a unique role in shaping a child’s development? Do children who have established adequate peer relations but no close friends turn out any differently than thode who have one or more of these special comapnions? Might an popular child who  has one or more socially skilled friends stand a better chance than other rejectees of improving her sociakl status? Unfortunately, no one has answers to all of these questions, for not many longitudinal studies of the effects of having (or not having) friends have been conducted. Nevertheless, the data that are available permit some speculation about the roles friends play as socializing agents.
How Do Peers Exert Their Influence?
To this point we have seen that it is important for children to establish good peer relations because they will acquire many competent and adaptive patern of social behavior through their interactions with peers. How exactly do peers exert their influence? In many of the same ways that parents do by reinforcing , modeling, discussing, and even pressuring one another to comply with the values and behaviors they condone.
Peer Reinforcement, Modeling Influences, and Social Comparison Processes
Peers as Critics and Agents of Persuasion
The Normative Function of Peer Groups
Peer versus Adult Influence: The Question of Cross-Pressures
In years gone by, adolescence was often characterized as a stormy period when all youths experience cross-pressures-severe conflicts between the practices advocated by parents and those favored by peers. How to accurate is this “life portrait” of the teen years? It may have some merit for some adolescents, especially those “rejected” youths who form deviant peer groups and endorse behaviors that are likely to alienate parents, teachers, and normal peers (Cairns et al., 1988; Dishion et al., 1991; Patterson et al., 1989). But there are several reasons to believe that the “cross-pressures problem” is not a problem for most adolescents.

Peer contacts represent a second world for children-a world of equal-status interactions that is very different from the nonegalitarian environment of the home. Contacts with peers increase dramatically with age, and during the preschool or early elementary-school years, children are already spending at least as much of their leisure time with peers as with adults. The peer group consist mainly of same sex playmates of different ages. Indeed, developmentalists define peers as “those who interact at similar levels of behavioral complexity,” because only small percentage of the child’s associates are actually agemates.
Research with monkeys and young children indicates that peer contacts are important to development of competent and adaptive pattern of social behavior. Children who fail to establish and maintain adequate relations with their peers will run the risk of experiencing any number of serious adjustment problems later in life.
Sociable gestures between peers begin by the middle of the first year. By age 18-24 months, infants’ sociable interactions are becoming much more complex and coordinated as they reliably imitate each other, assume complementary roles in simple social games, and occasionally coordinate their actions to achieve shared goals. Play becomes increasingly social and more cognitively complex throughout the preschool years as children develop and refine the skills necessary to plan and monitor their enactment of nonliteral complementary roles during social pretend play. The maturity of a preschool child’s play activities is a reasonably good predictor of his her present and future social competencies and popularity with peers. During middle childhood an increasing percentage of peer interactions occur in true peer groups- confederations that associate regularly, define a sense of group membership, and formulate norms that specify how group members are supposed to behave. By early adolescence, youngsters are spending even more time with peers-particularly with their closest friends and with social networks known as cliques.
Children typically form close ties, or friendships, with one or more members of their play group. Younger children view a friend as a harmonious playmate, whereas older children and adolescents come to think of friends as close companions who share similar interest and values and are willing to provide them with intimate social and emotional support. Interactions among friends are warmer, more cooperative, more compassionate, and more synchronous (though not necessarily less conflictual) than those among acquaintances. Although the unique roles that friends might play in one’s social development have not been firmly established, there are indications that solid friendships. 1 provide a sense of security and social support that helps children and adolescents to respond more constructively to stresses and challenges, 2 promote the development of role taking skills and an ability to compromise, and 3 foster the growth of caring and compassionate feelings, which are the foundations of intimate love relationships later in life.
Peers influence a child in many of the same ways that parents do-by modeling, reinforcing, discussing, and pressuring associates to conform to the behaviors and values the condone. Conformity pressures peak at mid-adolescence, when teenagers are most susceptible to peer-sponsored misconduct. Yet, adolescents who have established warm relations with their parents have generally internalized many of the parents values and will continue to seek parental advice about scholastic matters and future oriented decisions. Moreover, peer group values are often very similar to those of parents, and peers are more likely to discourage than to condone antisocial conduct. So adolescent socialization is not a continual battle between parents and peers; in stead, these two important influences combine to affect one’ development.

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Mahasiswa Magister Akuntansi di Universitas Mercu Buana, Karyawan di PT. Summarecon Agung, Tbk, Alumni STIE Indonesia'07, Psikologi UIN Jakarta '08,