Life Style

“Friendship is a stress absorber”

La Croix: Do adults tend to underestimate the importance of friendship in children?

Pascal Mallet: The French school tends to ignore the good sides of affinity relations between students. We see it when we constitute the classes. It happens that we separate children with affinities so that they do not make a mess … Moreover, it is not uncommon for parents to threaten their children not to see their friends as a punishment. As if they could do without it!

The child who does not have a friend in class has little chance of being happy there, and all the more so as he advances in the school curriculum. Keep in mind that a friendship relationship, on its own, greatly reduces the risk of being rejected or harassed.

Does friendship correspond to a biological need?

PM: Yes, ethologists have observed in primates and in other species that most individuals had friends with: they had lasting preferences characterized by reciprocal prosocial behaviors (mutual aid, play, offering of food, etc.).

→ READ. To grow up, the child needs friends

During development, friendship allows you to learn to regulate your emotions, aggressiveness and empathy. Research has shown that friendship is a stress reliever. When a student receives a bad grade or a mockery, their self-esteem drops and their cortisol levels drop (Editor’s note: nicknamed “stress hormone”) increases. But if he is with his best friend, these two variations are greatly attenuated.

Friendship therefore has a positive effect on self-esteem …

PM: Children and adolescents who have a good quality friendship relationship suffer less from the lack of availability of their parents, for example. When the latter have their minds elsewhere or are too busy to value their drawings or their school work, a feeling of self-deprecation appears. Which will be much less if the children have at least a friendly relationship made of mutual trust.

What about the friendships that are born online on social networks?

PM: During confinement, digital technology may have been the only way to maintain a friendship. Usually, it is generally used to prolong the exchanges with the friends that one made in his school establishment. We can see in social networks a new way to develop the self-image that we present to others, to cultivate our identity …

→ READ. Social networks can also create friendships

But beware of the likes counter, which pushes to seek as many approvals as possible. It activates the “reward circuit” among teens, to the point that the number of likes becomes an end in itself, and no longer a tool for maintaining friendships.


Books for children

Friendship. Make friends and keep them, by Isabelle Filliozat, Nathan, 2019, € 12.90. This activity book helps children find the resources within themselves to overcome their relationship problems, to feel loved and accepted, and to build and maintain a friendly relationship. From 5 years.

My friend, text by Astrid Desbordes, illustrations by Pauline Martin, Albin Michel Jeunesse, € 9.90 Archibald forges links with Sam, who has just arrived at school and who does nothing like the others. When friendship is born despite difference, even thanks to it. From 5 years.

Looking for friend, by Audrey Poussier, The leisure school, € 12. Confronted with loneliness during the holidays, Basile decides to place a classified ad: “Seeking friends”. His neighbor Juliette decides to wait with him. While waiting for a first candidate to present themselves, both exchange, play, cook and end up… by becoming friends. Ages 4 and up.

Resources for teachers

Philosophizing in class, with his students, around the theme of friendship. This is what Bayard Education offers, with an educational support sheet adapted from an issue of Astrapi magazine.

A book for adults

Playground, by Julie Delalande, University Press of Rennes, 2001. Everything that is played in the playground. And how friendships are created there.


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