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Study offers insights into how friendships help children manage stress

Friendships may serve as a buffer against the negative effects of social rejection and help children in managing their stress levels, according to a study conducted by Dutch researchers.

In a small study (subscription required) involving 100 fourth graders, researchers identified students who were often bullied or excluded by their peers and asked these children about their number of friends and quality of friendships. Additionally, parents provided information about the children's behavior problems and researchers measured each student's cortisol levels through saliva collections five times on each of two consecutive school days. Science Daily reports:

Children who were excluded by their classmates had elevated levels of cortisol at school, the study found. And they had a smaller decline in cortisol over the course of the day. Both of these findings may indicate that exclusion is stressful. This was even more pronounced for excluded kids who had few friends or had friendships that were characterized as low in quality.

Researchers said the study results indicate that while friends can't completely eliminate the stress of exclusion the close relationships can reduce it. The findings add to the growing scientific research suggesting that children's friends can provide a strong calming influence on them and that these relationships have a measurable effect on stress hormones during tense times.

Previously: To be healthier in the new year, resolve to be more social, How social ties can influence our health, happiness and Examining the connection between unstructured playtime and children's emotional health
Photo by Lisa M Photography

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