The Outsize Influence of your Middle School Friends

by Dr. Ted Fish / January 01st 2020

There’s a fascinating article the Atlantic just published about the “Outsize Influence of Your Middle School Friends.” The article runs through multiple studies to explore questions considered by generations of teachers and parents. How much influence do teens have on their peers? Why is this so? And what to do about it?!

The first question does not require a PhD to answer: A Ton! But the particular nuance that came to light in a 3-year study of 6,000 6th graders was shattering: 12% could not name a single friend! Worse still, these friendless kids were much more likely to be bullied in school…and by the 8th grade to be depressed. And finally, there is evidence that while elementary children who face stressful situations are easily soothed by contact with a loving mother, for adolescents that calming effect is gone, replaced by supportive contact with - you guessed it - a friend.

But what of those teens who cannot name a single friend, who lack the social skills to develop bonds with a peer? They become increasingly at risk. Research like this underscores the need for mentors to help struggling children develop skills like prospecting for, building and nurturing relationships. Far more so than grades, their successful development depends upon it!

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