Strong Relationships with Parents Help Children Establish Strong Friendships

Two young friends talk intimately after schoolParents sometimes find themselves worrying whether they’re interfering too much or too little in their children’s friendships. But a parent’s relationship with his or her child is a child’s first friendship, and may form the foundation for future relationships. New research suggests that a strong parent-child relationship can actually boost friendships in young children, and that kids who have secure attachments with their parents are more likely to be positive and friendly toward new friends.

The Importance of Attachment

The study examined how children’s attachment styles affect future friendships. Attachment theory is an important concept in psychology that was originally developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The basic premise is that children who have strong attachments to their parents have a “secure base” from which to explore the world, and that this secure base reduces the risk of mental health problems, difficult relationships, and a host of other challenges.

Most researchers believe that a child develops his or her attachment style in the first year of life. Children whose parents sensitively and quickly respond to their children’s needs are more likely to produce securely attached children. Researchers can evaluate a child’s attachment style by watching how he or she reacts when the parent leaves the room and then returns.

Attachment and Friendships

Researchers evaluated the parent-child attachment of 114 children at 33 months old. When the children reached 39 months, researchers paired the children with another child, then observed the interactions in a lab setting for one month.

Kids who had secure attachments to their parents seemed to like their peers more on the first meeting, even if the child being evaluated was prone to socially problematic behaviors such as anger. Researchers noted that securely attached children seemed more open to requests made by their peers, and that this effect was only undermined when the child’s peer displayed high levels of anger.

Creating Secure Attachments

Attachment continues to be an important element of children’s health and well-being, and some parents have even adopted a parenting style called attachment parenting that advocates close contact with babies, extended breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. You don’t have to commit to attachment parenting to help your child form strong attachments, though.

Try some of the following tips to help your baby develop a secure attachment:

  • Respond quickly to his or her cries for help and attention-seeking behaviors.
  • Remain consistent, and avoid sudden displays of anger or frustration.
  • Touch your baby frequently, and hold him or her as much as you can.
  • Don’t try to avoid “spoiling” your baby; this won’t happen.
  • Talk to your baby and focus on making and sustaining eye contact.
  • Let your baby take the lead and assert his or her needs, rather than forcing certain play activities or emotional responses on him or her.

References: 

  1. Having Strong Bonds to Their Parents Means Children Make Better Friends, Can Adapt in Relationships. (2014, June 23). Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/278577.php
  2. Reinsberg, Kristin. (n.d.). Tips for Building a Secure Attachment with Your Baby. Retrieved from http://www.abilitypath.org/areas-of-development/social–emotional/parent-child-connections/articles/tips-for-building-a-secure-attachment.htmles/tips-for-building-a-secure-attachment.html

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 7 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Liliana

    Liliana

    June 28th, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    I have always had a wonderful relationship with my own mother and I am so thankful because that taught me how to do the right things with my own daughter. I was with her so much when she was small and we try to take some time just for the two of us every day even now that she is getting older to have some quality time alone. She still talks to me about school and her friends, and she is 13 so I am hoping that this will continue as she goes into those hard teenage years. I miss her being small but I am so proud of the young woman that she is becoming. I can only hope that our relationship has shown her how to be a good and supportive friend to others and from what I have seen so far I think that it is definitely paying off.

  • Vonn

    Vonn

    June 28th, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Yeah I hate it when people talk about letting a bay cry it out when they want something because they don’t want to spoil them.
    If you don’t want to spoil them just a little then how are they ever going to have a sense that it is safe for them to come to you when they need things?
    Kids need things, they need to know that mom and dad will be there for them.
    And if you don’t want to just scooch and cuddle up with them, why have one?

  • Harris

    Harris

    June 29th, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    In the end, it is our job as parents to model for our kids the way that relationships should be. We show them through how we treat them how they deserve to be treated. Our marriages show them the importance of romantic love and how that person in their lives should honor and respect them. We show them how we are with our friends and the things that you do and do not expect from those friendships. How we show them to be is how they will grow up to be. I want my children to tell others that I showed them how to be a good person that they would want to emulate instead of something that they would never wish to be.

  • Joana_JW

    Joana_JW

    June 30th, 2014 at 12:36 AM

    I think friendship is the crux for any relationship; be it with parents, friends or even animals. All a man needs during the course of his/her life is four friends that last throughout the life’s journey. Strong friendship and relationship are resulted with trust and understand and there is no doubt about it :)Parents need to understand this simple fact!

  • boyce r.

    boyce r.

    June 30th, 2014 at 4:29 AM

    I had a pretty rough upbringing, living with aunts and grandparents and rarely my own parents.
    That made the thought of becoming a parent in my own right pretty daunting becaue how was I supposed to know how to act around kids when no one had ever really been a great role model for me.
    My wife is warming me up a little to the idea of having kids but it still is something that is very scary for me.
    I didn’t have those emotional attachments like she did when growing up so I wonder how I will do that with my own children? I don’t exactly have the ebst pattern to follow.
    Some people say that it comes so naturally for you, but what if that doesn’t happen for me? What do I do then?
    You can’t just say, oh well I trued but this just isn’t working.

  • Juliette

    Juliette

    June 30th, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    This seems that it is another one of those cyclical things that just because we report it and basically all know it, it won’t strengthen the relationships that in all honesty probably need it the most. The people who had this when they were growing up are the ones who will be the most likely to then turn around and be this way with their own children while those like Boyce who had a more difficult childhood will be a little more lost as to how to create this dynamic with their own children.
    We become what we see and in turn give this to our own children. It can be hard to start from scratch as an adult, but it is imperative if we ever want to break that cycle of poor relationships and family connections.

  • JT

    JT

    July 6th, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    We should never dismiss the things that we have been shown growing up, because believe me, there will come a time when you look back and realize that certain instances had a far greater impact on you than what you may have realized.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.