Changes in the Conception of Friendship

Children's conception of friendship changes with age. Young children define friendship primarily on the basis of interactions in the here-and-now and ac tual activities with their peers. At age seven or eight, friends tend to be viewed in terms of rewards and costs (e.g., certain friends are fun to be with or have interesting toys). When children are about ten years old, issues such as loyalty, making an active attempt to understand one another, and openly discussing personal thoughts and feelings become important components of friendship. Preadolescents and adolescents emphasize cooperative reciprocity (doing the same for one another), equality, trust, and mutual understanding between friends. It is unclear how much the age differences in children's conceptions of friends reflect real differences in their thinking about friendships or reflect differences in how well young children can express their ideas.

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