Children, especially young ones, are quite impressionable, so the people they interact with may help form their opinions and personalities. According to a study published in Infant and Child Development, those who develop friendships in kindergarten are more likely to have better social skills as they grow older. Boys, in particular, will show less behavioral problems when they reach first and third grade.

According to Jennifer Engle, lead author of the study, girls turn out to be more sociable regardless of how many friends they had in kindergarten, but boys could clearly use the steady foundation. Examining data from 567 kids who had been part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, researchers were determined to find out just how much influence early friendship has on children.

Interviewing the mothers, the researchers focused on the number of friends the children had as well as the quality of the friendship. Teachers also provided pertinent information on the behavior of the subjects. Results revealed that those with high-quality friendships do develop better social skills. "As we expected, high-quality kindergarten friendships that featured cooperation and sharing, taking turns, low levels of hostility, and little destructive conflict, gave children—especially boys—practice in positive interaction, which they demonstrated in grades 1 and 3," explained Engle.


As parents, there is a lot you can do to help your children along. Kids who come from loving and stable families are more open to developing friendships at school. Because they have come to expect acceptance from other people, they are more likely to exhibit the same type of acceptance of friends.

If you’re worried that your kids have yet to make friends with their classmates, Nancy McElwain, a University of Illinois associate professor of human development and co-author of the study, said that there is no need to worry. "Almost all of those children had made a friend by the time they reached third grade," she assured.

For more in raising healthy kids, try these:

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(Photo by stacya via Flickr Creative Commons)

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