During the teenage years, friendships are important for several reasons. Teenagers typically spend more time with their peers than they do with their parents, siblings or other social contacts. Therefore, friends influence many aspects of a teenager’s life. Healthy friendships can help teenagers avoid delinquency, isolation and many of the negative characteristics that are associated with this period of life.
Healthy friendships help teenagers feel accepted and confident and can pave the way for the development of other positive social ties. Confidence and feeling accepted are integral characteristics for a teen’s social and emotional development. When a teenager feels as if he is a part of a group, he is less likely to be negatively affected by bullying and other forms of rejection. Teens who feel confident and accepted may also be less likely to engage in the bullying of others.
Friends can be positive influences in the scholastic, social and personal aspects of a teenager’s life. Because friends often share common goals and/or interests, they can persuade a teen to make good choices. They can deter delinquency and conflict, encourage success in school and provide the basis for a larger network of associations that will be helpful later in life. Friendships can also help a teen get back on track with her goals and/or plans for the future when other, more negative influences are present.
The teenage years are often stressful. Having trustworthy, loyal friends is important to help teenagers deal with the stress and uncertainty that is a normal part of development. As noted by adolescent specialist Maria de Guzman, “healthy friendships provide youths with social support for dealing with some of the challenges of adolescence." Friends can serve as a sounding board for issues such as relationships, school, work and conflict with parents.
Friends are also outlets for fun and excitement. Friendships or peer groups help teenagers find healthy ways to have fun outside of home, school and work. With unhealthy peer influences, a teenager may engage in negative behavior. Healthy friendships, on the other hand, encourage pastimes that do not involve risk of delinquency or harm. An article posted in the University of Illinois Extension notes that, through companionship, recreation and common goals, friendships promote fun and excitement.
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