Having Stronger Friendships as a Teen Can Protect Against Trauma Years Later

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, humans are wired to be social creatures. People are not meant to be isolated for long periods of time, and a new study shows how much of an effect having good-quality friendships as a teenager has on a person’s psyche when they reach adulthood.

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that having strong friendships during adolescence can help people cope with social exclusion up to 10 years later, during early adulthood. More specifically, adults with healthy friendships as teenagers grew to become more resilient. The study authors define resilience as an individual’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning in the face of a traumatic experience or stressor.

Study authors, publishing their work in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, enrolled a group of 14-year-olds who experienced childhood trauma and filled out the Cambridge Friendship Questionnaire. The questionnaire was completed four times, starting when each participant was 14 and ending a decade later when they were 24 years-old. Originally, 1,238 people completed the initial survey. However, 436 people remained to complete the final assessment at age 24. From this group, 62 agreed to have their brains imaged for the study.

At age 24, people who volunteered for brain imaging underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and were asked to complete a virtual activity that simulated social exclusion. The researchers tracked brain activity as participants took part in a ball-throwing game with two avatars.

Brain scans during the social exclusion simulation showed activation of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in creating and regulating emotions. People who reported having good friendships when they were 14 and better resilient functioning at age 24 appeared to have more positive responses to social inclusion and, in turn, better resilience towards stressful events. However, the results were less clear on how much brain activity involved in resilience was altered by social exclusion.

Source: StudyFinds

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on Crosswalk.com and Religiontoday.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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