The Development of Emotional Support Capacities in Adolescent Friendships: A Transactional, Iterative Process with Implications for Functioning in Adult Romantic Relationships

Author: ORCID icon
Costello, Meghan, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia
Hurd, Noelle, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

This study examined the reciprocal and tandem development of friendship quality, emotional support behaviors, and emotional support competence in friendship across adolescence and into adult romantic relationships. A diverse, representative community sample of 184 adolescents and their closest friends were assessed via questionnaires and an observational lab task annually from age 13 to 18. Participants completed questionnaires and the lab task again with their romantic partners at age 24. Results indicated that a cross-lagged panel model of target participant-reported friendship quality, observed support received from a peer, and peer-reported emotional support competence best fit these data. Additional analyses indicated that these reciprocal relationships carry forward, predicting levels of support and secure attachment in romantic relationships into adulthood, after covarying gender and income, and regardless of whether adolescents maintained the same or different best friendships during their teen years. Findings are interpreted as suggesting that the teen best friendship is a vital context for practicing and developing emotional support competence, a years-long process that ideally unfolds in a positive feedback loop: Repeatedly engaging in security-enhancing, rewarding, and skill-honing emotional support interactions may prepare adolescents for relatively higher-functioning support systems in the future (within friendships and partnerships), while neglecting to engage in these interactions may stifle the development of these capacities.

MA (Master of Arts)
adolescence, relationships, peers, development
Issued Date: