Best Friends Forever: Child’s pals really can help reduce stress levels
A CHILD’S ‘best friends forever’ can provide such a strong calming influence that there is actually a measurable effect on stress hormones during tense times, researchers have found.
And discussing problems with your pal can be a very good thing for tweens and teens, according to a new study.
“One of the interesting things about these findings is that it’s not just any friend,” said the study’s author Ryan Adams, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “It’s the best friend.”
What that might mean, Adams said, is that the intimacy between best friends is what is buffering them from the stress of upsetting events and experiences.
“So with a best friend you might be more inclined to talk about issues that you’d be too embarrassed to talk about with someone who is just a friend,” he explained.
To study the impact of friendship, 103 children aged from 10 -12 who had a best friend were asked to fill out a diary five times a day on four schooldays. The mission was to rate how they felt about what they’d experienced in the previous 20 minutes on a scale that ranged from 1 (very positive) to 7 (very negative).
They were also asked to fill out a questionnaire designed to give researchers a sense of how good they felt about themselves at that moment and if they'd been alone or with parents, siblings, a best friend, a boy or girl friend, classmates, strangers, teachers or some other person.
Along with the diary entries, the children were asked to spit into a vial and the sample was then analyzed for the level of cortisol, a potent stress hormone.
While it might not be surprising that the children were happier in the company of a BFF, the study found that the presence of a friend could buffer the physical effects of a negative experience and the children didn’t produce as much cortisol in response to an unpleasant experience when in the company of a best friend.
When no friend was around during stressful times, cortisol shot up and self-worth plummeted.