Mental Floss

The Psychological Benefits of Having a Childhood Best Friend

Anna Green

A recent study shows that having a best friend during childhood can help strengthen kids' emotional resilience and coping skills. That might seem obvious to anyone who had a best friend during their formative years: it's no surprise that the person you shared your inside jokes and secret anxieties with would have an impact on your emotional wellbeing. But the study manages to delve into the specific ways close friends make our lives better. 

The study, conducted by psychologist Rebecca Graber of the University of Sussex, surveyed 400 adolescents, ages 11 to 19. According to New York Magazine, the kids were recruited from three schools in low-income neighborhoods in England. They answered questions about their friend groups, the nature of their friendships, and their ability to cope with different obstacles. The study's specific goal was to learn how friendship affects "psychological resilience in socio-economically vulnerable British adolescents," but has broader implications for more general understandings of friendship. 

Graber and her fellow researchers found that kids who had one very strong friendship had better coping skills than those with multiple looser social ties. They theorized that "the emotional support and the sounding board a real best friend provides" helps strengthen kids' resilience. Since those coping skills become increasingly important as we grow older and more independent, the study not only illustrates the importance of friendship for children, but shows how we carry the effects of those childhood friendships with us for the rest of our lives.