A little help from your friends

A new article in the British Journal of Psychology describes research into whether, and how, a single close supportive friendship may improve psychological resilience in socio-economically vulnerable young people. The authors conclude that such friendships facilitate resilience, and that at least one close friendship helps adolescents’ strength and resilience against substantial adversity.

409 participants aged between 11 and 19 years were recruited through three comprehensive secondary schools and two colleges in Yorkshire with deprived catchment areas (n=394), and through an online mailing list for peer supporters (n=15). They completed self-report measures of close friendship quality, psychological resilience, social support, and other resources.

Findings revealed a significant positive association between perceived friendship quality and resilience. This was facilitated through inter-related mechanisms of developing a constructive coping style (comprised of support-seeking and active coping), effort, a supportive friendship network, and reduced disengaged and externalising coping. There were gender differences. Perceived friendship quality facilitated effort and friendship network support more strongly for boys than girls, and in contrast it promoted constructive coping more strongly for girls. Boys were more vulnerable to the harmful effects of disengaged and externalising coping than girls.

The authors suggest a number of implications for practice, including:

  • Practitioners might prioritise existing and emerging supportive adolescent friendships within resilience interventions;
  • Interventions might promote peer-based coping skills and self-efficacy; and
  • Supportive peer friendships might be regularly included within assessments of psychosocial resources by clinicians and educators.

Source: Best Friends and Better Coping: Facilitating Psychological Resilience Through Boys’ and Girls’ Closest Friendships (2015), British Journal of Psychology.

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