If your teenage friendships mirrored Regina George’s “The Plastics” from Mean Girls, it’s likely your romantic relationships are something out of a soap opera — according to research, at least. A new study, courtesy of the University of Virginia and James Madison University has found a correlation between teen friendships and healthy romantic relationships later on in life.
The study, published in Child Development, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development followed a diverse group of 165 teenagers from the age of 13 until they were 30, contacting them once a year. During their yearly check-in, they would be asked about their friendships and relationships, and their close friends were also asked about their progress. Additionally, they were asked about their romantic relationships.
What they found, is that those teens who had healthy relationships with peers of their own gender were also more likely to be satisfied with their romantic relationships by the time they were 27 to 30."In spite of the emphasis teens put on adolescent romantic relationships, they turn out not to be the most important predictor of future romantic success," professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the lead author of the study, Joseph P. Allen said.
"Instead, it's the skills learned in friendships with peers of the same gender — skills such as stability, assertiveness, intimacy, and social competence — that correspond most closely to the skills needed for success in adult romantic relationships."
The study also found that there were specific key social development tasks by age, that predicted the success of their future love life. At age 13, their ability to establish positive expectations of relationships with their peers and to be appropriately assertive with peers were the best predictors of future romantic satisfaction. At ages 15 and 16, social competence, their ability to establish close friendships and to manage a broad array of relationships with peers, was the best predictor. And from ages 16 to 18, their ability to establish and maintain close, stable friendships was the best predictor of romantic satisfaction.
As a parent, this study should motivate you to encourage your children to put more emphasis on their relationship with their friends, instead of focusing on romantic conquests. While young love is usually fleeting, relationships with friends can not only last a lifetime but will also give them the skills they need when they do find their life partner.