Youth Culture Update: Friends’ Influence Lingers

By Paul Asay | Freelance writer, Colorado Springs, Colorado | April 8 2013
Friends are important to teens' mental health—but only if they're the right sort of friends. Those are the finding s of a recent study published the journal Child Development recently. For the study, researchers kept tabs on 150 teens for 10 years beginning at age 13. They found that teens who had difficulty connecting with peers were more apt to have troubled relationships later in life. On the flipside, many teens who bonded well with friends sometimes were more apt to struggle with drinking or substance abuse problems as young adults. The key, researchers said, was to make friends—but also establish a level of autonomy from them. In other words, teens who didn't go along with all their pals' crazy ideas were better equipped to deal with adulthood. "Overall, we found that teens face a high-wire act with their peers," says Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. "They need to establish strong, positive connections with them, while at the same time establishing independence in resisting deviant peer influences. Those who don't manage this have significant problems as much as a decade later." (ScienceBlog)

Paul Asay has covered religion for The Washington Post, Christianity Today, and The (Colorado Springs) Gazette. He writes about culture for Plugged In and wrote the Batman book God on the Streets of Gotham (Tyndale). He lives in Colorado Springs with wife, Wendy, and two children. Follow him on Twitter.
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