Introduction

Friendships are important to us all and enhance our lives by providing emotional, practical, and social support. For young people, who spend long hours at school and also have large amounts of free time available, close friendships and peer relationships play an important role in their social and emotional development. Friendships help young people to develop an identity that is separate from their family and offer an opportunity to develop social skills, as well as providing companionship and fun. For those with chronic illness, however, establishing stable, peer support networks can be disrupted by such intrinsic factors such as poor self-esteem, reduced self-confidence, and impaired body image as well as by extrinsic factors including periods of hospitalization, frequent therapy appointments, overprotection by family members, and poor availability of transport. All of these may compound the development of friendships and limit opportunities to consolidate social skills and develop self confidence (1). Society may also be reluctant to accept those with disabilities into particular peer groups (2).

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