School friendships matter a lot


School friendships matter, yet parents tend to ignore these in their zeal to ensure the individual success of a child, a new study has found. The study, funded by Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council, argues that the benefits children glean from their friendships have either been overlooked or are simply viewed in a negative light.

Susie Weller of London South Bank University, who conducted the study, said, “They have focused on the ‘youth problem’ — describing peer group interaction as having a negative affect on educational attainment and associated with destructive activities such as membership of a gang. Until now, work in this area has had little emphasis on children’s own experiences.”

The study found that the fear of being bullied made it vital for children to have a solid group of friends who acted as ‘back up’ — ready to support and defend them. Those without solid friendships were inherently more vulnerable.

The study was conducted to assess the impact of friendships on students in Britain as they move from primary to secondary school often chosen by parents.

Weller believes the focus of British education policy on parental choice means children are competing with one another for places at well-resourced schools. “This often means that relationships such as friendship are sidelined and little attention has been given to the positive and constructive resources and experiences such networks can provide,” she said.

Weller added, “These relationships were short-term bonds that often gave children confidence in new and unsettling surroundings. Being seen as part of a group during the first days projects a more confident, popular persona to your new peers.”