Good friends help boys behave better

The behaviour of children may be improved if they form high-quality friendships in their early years, new research has suggested. Published in the journal Infant and Child Development, the study revealed boys who develop these bonds will have better social skills when in education.

Investigators from the University of Illinois found that young lads are also likely to have fewer behavioural problems as a result of becoming good mates with others.

However, girls appear to be different from their male counterparts in this regard, as it was demonstrated that young females coped well in social settings regardless of whether or not they had already formed close ties.

Lead author of the study Jennifer Engle noted: "Boys, on the other hand, clearly benefited from the good start that early high-quality friendships provide."

Ms Engle pointed out young males who developed no friendships early on were more prone to bad behaviour when in the first and third grades at school.

Professor Helen Cowie from the University of Surrey, Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Previous research by Michael Boulton showed that high-quality friendships protect children from being bullied.

"The present study demonstrates how important high-quality friendships are for the development of social skills in general and especially for boys. I am sure that one of the reasons is that close peer relationships give children opportunities to take new perspectives on life and to develop empathy for another's thoughts and feelings.

"They also learn important social skills from resolving everyday conflicts within the safety of a high-quality friendship."