Researchers have discovered that caring in friendships is directly related to a teen’s concern with making a difference in the world.
“Increasing our understanding of adolescents’ relationships with friends can help us understand what kind of adults they might become,” said Dr. Anna-Beth Doyle, distinguished professor emeritus in Concordia University’s Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
The researchers collected yearly responses from 142 teens from ages 13 to 16. The teens were asked to gauge how concerned they were with contributing to the future by responding to statements like “I try to help others by sharing what I’ve learned in my life,” and “Others would say that I have done something special for society.”
Teens were also asked to describe their relationships with their close friends by reacting to assertions like, “I can tell when my friend needs comforting, even when s/he doesn’t ask for it,” or “When my friend has a problem, I try to help him/her to come up with something to do about it.”
The researchers found that adolescents who had caring relationships with their friends went on to develop a concern for others beyond their immediate circle.
“The real-life experience of caring for friends seems to give teens an abstract model of the importance of offering care to future generations,” explained Heather Lawford, Ph.D., now a faculty member at Bishop’s University, who completed the study as her doctoral thesis. “Adolescents may learn to apply this empathic concern to the welfare of their community.”
“This research has an important message for teachers, parents and psychologists involved with adolescents: If we can successfully foster young teens showing care for their friends, we have a good chance of also fostering a desire to leave a positive mark on their community and the world,” the researchers concluded.
The study was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Source: Concordia University