Parents on the Sidelines: The Role of Parental Directing in Chinese Adolescents’ Friendship Dynamics Related to Academic Achievement, Aggression, and Prosocial Behavior

Xingna Qin*, Lydia Laninga-Wijnen, Christian Steglich, Yunyun Zhang*, Ping Ren, René Veenstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Adolescents’ peer interactions strongly influence their school behavior, raising the question of whether parents can still direct adolescents’ friendship choices or whether they are mostly on the sidelines. Chinese cultural values emphasize the importance of having “good” friends, raising questions about adolescents’ adherence to parental direction of friendships. This study examined friendship dynamics among seventh and eighth graders in central China (n = 1,454, 46.7% girls), focusing on achievement, aggression, and prosocial behavior. Social network analysis revealed that Chinese students tended to select friends who were more similar to them in achievement, aggression, and prosocial behavior. Interestingly, they avoided aggressive peers but were attracted to high-achieving and prosocial peers. Despite parental emphasis on friendship quality, the study found no parental direction in adolescent friendship selection. These findings underscore the central role of peer characteristics in friendship dynamics, while highlighting the limited impact of parental directing on Chinese adolescents’ friendship selection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Early Adolescence
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2-Apr-2024

Keywords

  • academic achievement
  • aggression
  • friendship
  • parental practices
  • prosocial behavior
  • social network

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