Peer Relations and Children’s Friendships
The study of relations not only in the family system but also in the peer environment provides important information for the understanding of children’s loneliness. Why do some children become well-liked or accepted by peers, whereas others are rejected or ignored? Why do some of these rejected children feel lonely, whereas others do not? Questions like these, dealing with the complexity of peer relations, have recently become the focus of research interest. A great deal of consensus already exists concerning the perceived benefits of early and different patterns of relations, not only with family members but also with peers, for the development of satisfying social competence throughout life (Rubin, 1985; Rubin & Mills, 1988). During childhood, individuals learn a wide variety of social behaviors and responses, including prosocial and aggressive acts, sex roles, and emotional reactions (Ladd, 1988). Peers may serve as effective models and reinforcers of socially appropriate behaviors and may help in reducing children’s distress in unfamiliar and threatening situations; in addition, spending time with peers may provide children with unique opportunities to discuss feelings, expand thought processes and knowledge, and experiment with age-related task performance and social roles (Ladd, 1988).
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