I recently recommended Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing to my principal, but I think I may need to recommend to my school counselor as well. As the year is ending, friendships issues have been a source of tension in both girls and boys groups at my school.
Bronson & Merryman suggest that male and female have different friendships. Males even at infancy prefer groups. Studies of preschooler find that girls play in pairs more than boys. Females want their friend to be an equal, while male groups are hierarchical. Pair friendships can be more fragile than group friendships because they do not have “greater purpose.”
How does this research in my school?
- Many conflicts between the girls at my school arise when one of them perceives the other friend of not holding up their end of the bargain. They are struggling with friends choosing to play with someone else at the playground.
- The conflicts between the boys occur when they don’t understand that someone is not playing in the group. Often times the boy assumes that another boy is involved in the horseplay, but is not and reacts as if it was sign of disrespect.
What can I do about this?
- Share the friendship differences to the teachers so they can understand the conflict cycle that is occurring.
- Analyze the issue with this lens to respond more effectively.
- Spend time working with the girls to communicate clearly to the friend that she feels slighted.
- Explicitly teach body language to the boys in class so they can decide if the friend is playing the game.
- Create opportunities for the groups to work cooperatively to achieve a greater purpose.
In addition to seeing it in action at school, I also have my own real-life examples. It might explain why some friendships became strained when one of us had a boyfriend. It also would explain why I prefer to hang out with just one friend or in even numbers. I thought of a friend who got the job I wanted, but she said to me, “I only got the job because….” That It would also explain why my husband did not understand why I complained about a friend that I always had to call. In my personal life, I will quit keeping score with friends. I chose my friends because they make me better.