A Friend by Your Side Keeps Self-Worth High

Psychological benefits of keeping friends nearby during unpleasant events

(RxWiki News) Everyone knows that it feels nice to have friends, but did know that keeping close friends as children has real physiological and psychological benefits later in life?

Children who deal with negativity without their friends nearby have lower feelings of self-worth and higher levels of potentially harmful hormones in their bodies.

These effects have serious implications on our adult lives.

"Ask your therapist about increasing your child’s social engagement."

William M. Bukowski, who has a doctorate in Developmental Psychology and is the director of the Concordia Centre for Research in Human Development, co-authored the study.

Bukowski notes that "if a child is alone when he or she gets in trouble with a teacher or has an argument with a classmate, we see a measurable increase in cortisol levels and decrease in feelings of self-worth. Having a best friend present during an unpleasant event has an immediate impact on a child's body and mind.”

Cortisol is a natural hormone produced by the body. However excessive cortisol levels are bad for your immune system and bones.

“Excessive secretion of cortisol can lead to significant physiological changes, including immune suppression and decreased bone formation. Increased stress can really slow down a child's development,” explains Bukowski.

This increased stress not only slows a child’s development, but it has negative implications for that child’s adult life as well.

“What we learn about ourselves as children is how we form our adult identities. If we build up feelings of low self-worth during childhood, this will translate directly into how we see ourselves as adults.”

The study was conducted over a 4 day period in Montreal. Fifty-five boys and 48 girls in 5th and 6th grades kept journals on their feelings and experiences. Regular saliva tests were taken from the grade schoolers to measure their cortisol levels.

The study was published in the journal Developmental Psychology in Nov., 2011 and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Review Date: 
January 30, 2012