Summary of Quality of Friendships Qualitative Data

Law Of Attraction For Kids

Smart Parenting Guide

Get Instant Access

Similar to what the research literature has suggested (Savin-Williams & Berndt, 1990), shared secrets were a critical part of the experience of closeness for the adolescents in our studies. Contrary to the existing literature on friendships, however, shared secrets or the desire to share secrets was just as important for boys as for girls. Perhaps among adolescents who come from more interdependent cultures (e.g., poor and working class, African American, Latino, and Asian American families), sharing the intimate details of one's life with close friends is more normative than among adolescents who come from more autonomy-focused cultures (e.g., European American, middle-class families). It is also possible that our findings are more a product of methodology than of sample demographics. The ways in which we conduct qualitative research entails creating a safe space for young people to share their thoughts and feelings and encouraging them to speak about what they find most meaningful (see Way, 1998). Such research may be better equipped to "unpack" the meaning of closeness than more close-ended surveys typically used in quantitative research. Indeed, Chu (2004) also found in her qualitative research with primarily White, middle-class adolescent boys that sharing secrets was an important part of friendships for these boys as well.

Moreover, results from our qualitative findings suggest that in addition to the sharing of secrets, closeness was based on sharing money, physical and emotional protection, and having family/friend connections. Again, it is unclear whether these elements of closeness are unique to the ethnic minority low SES, urban adolescents in our studies, or whether similar variations in the meaning of closeness would be evident for youth of different backgrounds. It is likely, however, that the sharing of money is more relevant for those who have less money than for those for whom money is not a concern. Similarly, protection from harm may be particularly critical for those raised in environments where they do not feel safe. Finally the value of family/friend connections might be especially important for those adolescents coming from cultures in which family relationships are strongly emphasized. "Fictive kin" has been explored for decades in the research on African American family relationships (Stack, 1974) and our research suggests that these fictive kin networks are also important for understanding adolescent friendships. Themes connecting friends and family, however, were not evident among Asian American adolescents which may be due to parents' values and beliefs (Way & Chen, 2000). Asian American adolescents in our studies often spoke of their parents being distrustful of their peers, particularly peers who were not Asian, and not allowing their children's friends to come to their homes (Way & Pahl, 2001; Way & Greene, 2005). This prohibition may influence the extent to which non-familial friends and family members blend together.

Distrust of peers was also a significant theme in our data. Reasons for the high levels of distrust might lie with the racism and harassment experienced by the adolescents on a daily basis (see Rosen-

bloom & Way, 2004). This lack of trust likely affects adolescents' ability to trust each other (Epstein & Karweit, 1983). Increases in distrust over time, particularly distrust of same-sex peers, may also be due to the increased likelihood of having actually experienced a betrayal by a friend and by the "compulsory heterosexuality" (see Tolman, 2002) that weighs down on girls and boys particularly during middle and late adolescence, often leading them to betray their same-sex friends. Adolescents, particularly the boys, found it increasingly difficult to find and maintain same-sex friendships as they grew older which is likely due, at least in part, to gender expectations regarding what it means to be "a man" or "woman" and the embedded homophobia in mainstream messages regarding masculinity and femininity (Chu, 2004; McAnGhaill, 1996; Raymond, 1994). Nevertheless, these feelings of distrust, for the most part, did not preclude close, trusting friendships from flourishing. Indeed, although the context of friendships was one of mistrust, the friendships themselves appeared quite trustworthy and close. Understanding what allows for or supports adolescents' "relational resilience" is an important area for future investigation.


Having described our efforts to understand ethnic minority low SES, urban adolescents' experiences of friendships, we dedicate the remaining portion of this chapter to describing prevailing gaps in the literature, with the hope of inspiring further inquiry into the peer experiences of adolescents from ethnically, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse backgrounds. We believe that such research is critical, for despite changing demographics—resulting in a proliferation of ethnic minority adolescents in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004)—there remains a dearth of research on ethnic minority adolescents' experiences in the world (Fitzgerald, Lester, & Zuckerman, 1995; Garcia Coll, Akerman, & Cicchetti, 2000; Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Graham, 1992, 1994; Way & Chen, 2000).

Indeed, in order to respond to the needs of such an increasingly diverse adolescent population, several important research agendas should be explored. Future research should examine the multiple intersecting and overlapping contexts that shape the ways in which adolescents experience their friendships and how friendships change and shape the contexts in which they are embedded. Furthermore, multimethod, longitudinal research exploring how the predictors of friendships or the processes affecting adolescent peer experiences change over time is needed. As our own research suggests, exclusive reliance on survey, questionnaire, or observational methods may seriously constrain our understanding of adolescents' friendships.

Contextual-Correlates of Friendships

As noted throughout this chapter, relatively little attention has been paid to the ways in which adolescent friendships are embedded within multiple social networks. In fact, the majority of friendship research has focused on the correlates (e.g., psychological adjustment) and consequences of friendships (e.g., delinquency, drug use, academic outcomes), without concomitant attention to understanding the contextual variables that shape the friendship experiences and the ways in which friendships, in turn, alter these contexts. Such neglect is especially surprising given the proliferation of research exploring how multiple settings or contexts influence child development (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1993; Burton et al., 1995; Seidman, 1991). Despite the fact that adolescents' experiences with peers take place in multiple contexts—including families, schools, neighborhoods, and communities—few studies have used an ecological framework to explore how these contexts influence the nature, type, quality, or experiences of adolescent friendships (DuBois & Hirsch, 1990; Epstein, 1989; Phelan et al., 1994). Accordingly, future research should consider how contextual-features interact with children's friendship experiences. In all probability, the experience of friendships may be quite different for adolescents living in, for example, single- versus two-parent homes, first versus second generation families, dangerous versus safe neighborhoods, economically disadvantaged versus well-funded schools (Elias & Dilworth, 2003); the list is endless.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Single Parentings Guide

Single Parentings Guide

Finally! You Can Put All Your Worries To Rest! You Can Now Instantly Learn Some Little-Known But Highly Effective Tips For Successful Single Parenting! Understand Your Role As A Single Motherfather, And Learn How To Give Your Child The Love Of Both Parents Single Handedly.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment