Relationships: Children From Low-Income Backgrounds Thrive More With Solid Friendships

First Posted: Jun 28, 2015 11:52 PM EDT

New findings published in the British Journal of Psychology reveal that friendship is very important for children, particularly those coming from a low-income background. The study results showed that relationships like these can make many of them more resilient.

For young people living in low-income areas, they may face extra challenges when compared to counterparts, including issues toward good physical health, academic achievement and employment. However, researchers have discovered that a single supportive friendship can help them thrive in all circumstances, despite difficulty.

"Research into promoting resilience in young people has concentrated on support from the family, but friendships are important too. Boys' and girls' best friendships are an important source of meaning and strength in the face of substantial adversity," Dr. Rebecca Graber, who led the study, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 400 students between the ages of 11 and 19 from three schools and two colleges in Yorkshire serving catchment areas with poor socioeconomic status.

The participants were required to complete psychological assessments on the quality of their closest friendship and their resilience in the face of adverse experiences, as well as how they coped with any problems.

Findings revealed that the student's best friendships facilitated effective ways of coping (including planning and reframing the issue in a positive light) and how they helped them develop resilience to complex challenges.

Lastly, researchers noted one gender difference in friendships, with girls' best friends holding a slight tendency to promote risky or ineffective ways of coping, including self-blame. However, boys' best friendships did not have the same issue.

"There has also been almost a distrust of friendship between boys, with research concentrating on the negative side of belonging to a gang. But that isn't the whole story," Graber concluded. "Our research suggests that boys' best friendships may be intimate, trustworthy and supportive, even as they face social pressures towards a stoic or macho masculinity."

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