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Me, myself, and you : Friendships in adolescence

By M.H.W. van Zalk


The current dissertation focused on processes of friendship formation and friendship socialization in adolescence. The role of individual characteristics in friendship formation were examined at the a) individual level (individuals’ perceptions and traits), b) dyadic level (similarity between two persons in traits and preferences), and c) group level (peers’ perceptions of traits). For friendship socialization, we examined the relative importance of friends’ behaviors and perceptions of friendships in the behavioral and emotional development of adolescents. Data were used from two longitudinal projects, CONAMORE and My First Year. In CONAMORE, questionnaires were filled out both at school and at home. Data were used up to five annual measurements, spanning from early to late adolescence. From this project, several subsamples of adolescents and their friends were used. Questionnaires concerned friendship nominations, personality traits, media use, problem behaviors, and perceptions of friendship quality. In the My First Year project, 205 just-acquainted University freshmen filled out online questionnaires in five monthly measurements. In this project, friendship intensity, Big Five personality traits, and communication were examined using a longitudinal round-robin design. Findings regarding friendship formation indicate that individual characteristics have unique functions in friendship formation. On the individual level, Extraversion and Agreeableness predicted selecting others more and being selected by others more, respectively. Moreover, whereas adolescents’ perceptions of similarity in overall personality traits predicted more friendship intensity, actual similarity in these traits did not. Friendship intensity, in turn, predicted perceptions of more similarity in overall personality traits. On the dyadic level, adolescents tended to form friendships with others who were similar in specific personality traits Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Openness. Further, similarity in specific and overall music preferences predicted friendship formation. On the group level, peers’ perceptions of similarity between just-acquainted late adolescents predicted the frequency they communicated. This, in turn, predicted friendship intensity over time. Support was found for salient functions of friends’ behaviors and perceptions of friendship in the development of individual characteristics. Whereas friends’ delinquent behaviors predicted increases in boys’ delinquent behaviors from early to middle adolescence, perceptions of closeness in friendships did not. For girls, however, perceptions of higher closeness and higher individuality were associated with lower levels of depression from early to late adolescence. Only for adolescents who perceive low closeness in friendships, non-communication based Internet use predicted more depression and social anxiety over time. For adolescents who perceive medium to high closeness, Internet use did not predict depression and social anxiety. In sum, perceptions of friendship quality and friends’ behaviors both seem to have unique functions in behavioral problems for boys and emotional problems for both boys and girls, respectively. Thus, both adolescents themselves and others seem to have an important role in adolescents’ friendships and adolescents’ development. Adolescents’ own individual traits and preferences tend to partially determine their friendship choices. Moreover, adolescents’ perceptions of others’ personality may be more consequential for their friendship choices than how others’ personality actually is. Nevertheless, peers’ perceptions and friends’ behaviors may additionally influence adolescents’ friendship selection and behavioral and emotional development

Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/35151
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