Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
John F. Knutson
Friendships are an important context of children's development, yet there is much still to be learned about these formative relationships. Friendship stability is one understudied feature of children's friendships. The aim of the present study was to investigate both predictors and outcomes associated with friendship stability to further elucidate the role that friendships play in shaping children's development. Potential predictors examined included age, gender, gender match, race, residence in a rural or urban community, number of moves in the last year, child externalizing behavior, friendship quality, and deficient parenting. Similarity between friends in terms of overt and relational aggression was also examined as a potential predictor of stability, and age was tested as a potential moderator of these relations. Additionally, a double mediational model was explored wherein child behavior was tested as a mediator of the link between deficient parenting and friendship quality and friendship quality was tested as mediator of the link between child behavior and friendship stability. Finally, in order to better understand the impact of stable friendships on children's adjustment, the present study tested friendship stability as a predictor of time 2 child externalizing behavior after controlling for time 1 externalizing behavior.
Participants were 176 children and primary caretakers enrolled in a 3-year longitudinal study examining the social development of children living in circumstances of social disadvantage. A multisource, multimethod approach was used to assess deficient parenting and children's externalizing behavior. Friendship stability was assessed over two waves approximately 12 months apart. Participating children provided data on their friendships, friendship quality, and friends' aggressive behavior. Children were invited to report on friendships occurring in any setting and friendship stability was examined both in children's networks of 1-3 best friends and in children's relationships with one very best friend. Proposed models were tested using structural equation modeling. The link between child externalizing behavior and friendship stability was supported, as was the link between deficient parenting and child externalizing behavior. Deficient parenting and friendship quality did not predict friendship stability. Thus, the role of child externalizing behavior as a mediator of the relation between deficient parenting and friendship stability was not supported by the present study, nor was the role of friendship quality as a mediator of the relation between child externalizing behavior and friendship stability. Age significantly predicted friendship stability with one very best friend and residence in a rural or urban community significantly predicted friendship stability within children's networks of 1-3 best friends. Friendship stability did not predict time 2 externalizing behavior. These results highlight the influence of child behavior, age, and contextual factors on friendship stability.
Copyright 2011 Amanda Murray