“ Friends, it’s used to live, launches Lila, a 10-year-old schoolgirl in Nantes, who does not have enough room on her fingers to count her girlfriends. It helps to feel good, not to be bored and to confide in them secrets. “ Same diagnosis for Inès, 7 years old, her gaming partner: “When we don’t know something, they can help us and console us when we are sad. “ Children are the first to recognize how important friendships are in their lives.
→ TESTIMONIALS. They kept their childhood friends
“From the nursery, we see babies come alive when others approach them, underlines Marie-Rose Moro, child psychiatrist and director of the Maison de Solenn, in Paris. Children feel familiar with others very early on and seek their company ” (1). When they get into the language, they very quickly memorize the first names of their friends. “Between 0 and 3 years old, we insist a lot on the relationship with adults, she continues. But the relationship with peers is structuring and reassuring, even if there are already conflicts and rivalries. “
Entering kindergarten marks the discovery of the pleasure of interaction and the development of empathy. “Between 3 and 6 years old, children enjoy playing with someone different from them, details Marie-Rose Moro. He’s not looking for someone like him yet. “ The other is a playmate with whom we run, catch each other, play ball or make up stories. He calms us and consoles us. Cléo, 6 years old, in the last year of kindergarten, has known her friend Anouk since the small section. “I like how she talks, her house and her little brother, she breathes. With a friend, you are not alone. “
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His mother Tifenn recognizes the importance of these links. “I was an only child and it gave me a lot, she says. My daughter is too and it gives her a lot of joy. A bit of pain, too, when her girlfriends prefer to play with others than herself at recess. ” For Marie-Rose Moro, it is essential that parents understand that “Childish friendships are precious, magnificent and do children good”. As long as you don’t get too involved, especially when the children are growing up: “It’s up to adults to set the scene by inviting friends over to the house and making sure it’s not toxic relationships that amount to bullying. But if not, we must let these friendships be lived at the level of children. “
The “same” as oneself
Between 6 and 11 years, the latency period, “Children like to look for ‘the same’, that is to say friends who are like them”, continues the child psychiatrist. Sociologist Kevin Diter, who spent a year in an elementary school in Paris, draws up an implacable report on the formation of these friendships (2). “Like those of adults, they are far from democratic, he observes. Being of the same age and belonging to the same sex are the two main conditions necessary for the formation of childish emotional bonds. “
Her study shows that 60% of girls (and 70% of boys) report having same-sex friends. This proportion rises to 80% for best friends. Children cite two main reasons. First, different games, tastes and activities. “The boys spend their time bragging and when they play football, they never pass the ball to the girls”, points out Elisa, 9, who has mainly girls among her friends. Another obstacle noted by Lila, the risk of being called “lovers” if you play with a child of the opposite sex.
Second key criterion, the date of birth. They are 29% to have friends in a larger class and only 19% in a smaller class, according to the study of Kevin Diter. A “Age homophilia”, encouraged by education professionals “Which bring together students by grade level, including during extra- or long-term activitieslaughschoolchildren “.
→ MAINTENANCE. “Friendship is a stress absorber”
Even social category permeates friendly choices. “Children from the upper classes will tend to play games based on language and imagination, while those from the lower classes rely on sports and imitations of fighting games”, decrypts the sociologist. Parents are not neutral in these choices. “By qualifying some children as intelligent, beautiful or funny and others as dirty, painful or brawling, they largely influence the friendly market”, he says. Tifenn, Cléo’s mother, readily admits that the parents of her daughter’s friends “Share the same tastes and modes of education” what.
Those who have no friends
However, sometimes children do not have friends. A painful situation which, according to Marie-Rose Moro, can have several explanations: developmental disorders, such as those of the autism spectrum, a high intellectual potential, which means that the child has very different concerns from those of his comrades, or still depression, causing him to feel out of touch with others. “You can’t force children to become friends, she notes. But teachers are more and more sensitive to it. “
→ READ. The love life of children
Sophie, a mother of three boys, has always sought to invite friends over to support her oldest child. “From the moment he skipped a class he was called a nerd and rowed a lot to make friends, she confides. Containment didn’t help: I haven’t invited anyone home for a year! “ In fact, the health crisis has had a significant impact on the social life of children. “It’s very complicated to build new relationships at the moment, confirms Marie-Rose Moro. Adults tend to underestimate the friendships of younger people. He absolutely must be rehabilitated. “
What friendship means for the French
There are few surveys devoted to friendship. The last one, carried out by the Ipsos institute, dates back to the year 2000. Here are its main lessons:
For the French, friendship is first and foremost helping each other (cited by 59% of respondents), confiding (17%), acting together (16%), having fun together (7%).
For there to be a “real” friendship, it is necessary to have common values (68%), to have known each other very young (18%), to have the same sex (9%) or the same. age (9%).
22% of respondents say they have between 5 and 9 true friends, 18% to have 2, 17% 3. On the other hand, 4% say they have none.