*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on ScienceDaily.
A new study on adolescent friendships offers support for the belief that misery really does love company. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and collaborators examined the degree to which internalizing symptoms — anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and submissiveness — predicted the dissolution of teen friendships.
The study, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, included 397 adolescents (194 boys, 203 girls) in 499 same-sex friendships, who were followed from grade seven (median age 13), through to the end of high school in grade 12. The students were living in Connecticut at the time of the study. Discrete-time survival analyses were conducted with grade seven peer, teacher, and self-reports of internalizing symptoms as predictors of the timing of friendship dissolution.
Results found no evidence that individual internalizing symptoms predicted friendship dissolution, even at extreme or clinical levels.
“An important takeaway from our study is that children’s personal struggles need not adversely impact their social relationships,” said Laursen. “Mental health issues do not necessarily ruin chances of making and maintaining worthwhile friendships.”
Instead, the results indicated that the more friends differed on anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms, the greater the incidence of friendship instability. Therefore, youth who resembled one another were more likely to remain friends from one year to the next.
“Behavioral similarity is tremendously important to a friendship,” said Laursen. “Shared feelings and shared experiences are the glue that holds a friendship together.”
In most respects, boys and girls did not differ in the factors that predicted friendship instability. There was one notable exception: differences on submissiveness increased friendship instability for boys, but decreased friendship instability for girls.