Quality friendships in Kindergarten lead to fewer behavior problems later, especially with boys

Recent research published in the Infant and Child Development Journal indicates that high-quality friendships in Kindergarten may lead to boys experiencing fewer behavior problems and better social skills in first and third grades.

For the research, co-authors Nancy McElwain and Jennifer Engle looked at data gathered from 567 children (boys and girls) and mothers. Mothers reported on the number of friends their children had in Kindergarten and indicated the friendship quality. The researchers followed and compared the progress of children with no friends, low-quality friendships, average quality friendships, and high-quality friendships. They relied on teacher input on children’s behavior problems in Kindergarten, first grade, and third grade.

High-quality friendships were important to boys and girls. However, the team found that boys with high-quality friendships in Kindergarten experienced fewer behavior problems and better social skills by third grade than boys with moderate or low-quality friendships in Kindergarten. Teachers reported that girls had good social skills by third grade regardless of their Kindergarten friendships.

“As expected, high-quality Kindergarten friendships that featured cooperation and sharing, taking turns, low levels of hostility, and little destructive conflict, gave children—especially boys—practice in interaction, which they demonstrated in grades 1 and 3,” Engle said in a press release.

Research into Practice: ABC Music & Me

In ABC Music & Me, we provide early childhood teachers with lesson plans that promote key social skills children need to build high-quality friendships. Through singing, moving, and instrument play, children practice sharing and taking turns, self-regulation, and cooperative play. These foundational social skills give children the ability to learn how to be a good friend. As McElwain’s and Engle’s research shows, children—especially boys—who have the ability to make friends early in school are better equipped for later success in elementary school.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me in your classroom, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.


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