The Value of Childhood Friendship

Parents and teachers must teach the value of childhood friendship. How can we help kids build healthy relationships?
The Value of Childhood Friendship

Last update: 11 July, 2021

Throughout our entire lives, friendships are essential for everyone’s intellectual, emotional and social development. The value of childhood friendship is crucial since that’s when we make our first friends. The friendships we have as kids will form many of our future behaviors.

We can say that friendship is one of the most important values that we teach kids. Parents and teachers must be aware of teaching the value of childhood friendship. Also, they need to provide them with skills that can help them form healthy relationships with their peers.

As we’ve mentioned, the way kids interact during the first years of life is very important, especially the first friendships outside the family circle. At this stage, the different attachments start to form. In fact, this can be a predictor of behaviors in the future, both negative and positive.

How does the value of friendship in childhood develop?

First of all, we’re going to define friendship as two-way, reciprocal, and voluntary relationships that involve affection between both parties and are maintained over time. Among the main characteristics of friendships, here are some of the most important:

  • Acceptance of the friend, sincerity, loyalty, mutual trust, and willingness to help.
  • Establishment of affective bonds between friends, which creates intimate, intense communication.
  • Friends offer care, security and emotional support.
  • Are helpful, interested and involved in what happens to their friend.
  • Require the cognitive ability to put themselves in the other person’s point of view (Decentration). Also, they need the empathetic ability to share feelings with others.
  • Are affectionate, share activities, and like to be together. If they separate or breakup, it could cause feelings of sadness, abandonment and anxiety.
Two boys hugging at a birthday party.

These characteristics make friendships highly valued and a rewarding experience in people’s lives. In this way, when there aren’t any or they’re broken, it affects emotional and social development. Because of this, being alone or rejected can be very painful for people.

Friendship relationships change throughout life. In addition, the meaning of friendship evolves; it changes the way we relate to each other, what we think and demand from friends, and the variables that determine whether or not we have them.

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light.”

-Helen Keller-

How important is it?

Childhood friendship fulfills important functions in kids’ emotional and social development. So, friendship gives kids affection, emotional support, and emotional security.

Parents and other people in kids’ social networks can fill some of these needs as well. For example, they can also provide affection, care, and protection.

However, friendships make specific contributions to social development that no other relationship can do. Among others, we’re talking about the feeling of equality and belonging to the group, as well as the community. Kids can’t get this from adults since there’s a power imbalance in adult-children relationships.

Different interactions with friends are egalitarian in nature. This is what distinguishes children’s relationships with parents. Instead, kids experience a wide range of feelings and values. Some are positive (affection, support, trust, loyalty) while others are negative (jealousy, anger, aggressiveness, resentment).

Kids playing in an open field.

This way, they contribute to the emotional control and emotional regulation in the first few years of kids’ lives with their parents.

Functions of childhood friendship

According to Sullivan (1953), there’s an essential function in childhood friendship that consists of correcting some points of view about social life that they may have learned from their parents.

In this sense, they help compensate for possible inappropriate patterns that might be present in family life. For example, some of these might be too much dependence and impulsive behaviors.

For moral development, friendships help transition from family relationships to autonomy. Through them, kids learn to apply moral and ethical values and norms, such as loyalty, solidarity and justice.

In addition to this quasi-therapeutic role that Sullivan mentions, friendships play an important role in sexual development, moral development, learning norms and values, and social competence.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Fuentes Rebollo, M. J., & Melero Zabal, M. (1992). Las amistades infantiles: desarrollo, funciones y pautas de intervención en la escuela. Revista Investigación en la Escuela, 16, 55-67.
  • Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry (HS Perry & ML Gawel, Eds.).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.