Teen Life: By Students For Students

Relationships and Mental Health

Teenagers have to remind themselves how important relationships are in their lives. Social conditions such as popularity, the need to feel noticed, and the constant search for approval from peers are distracting teens from building and maintaining healthy relationships.

The University of Virginia conducted a study on 169 adolescents in 10th grade consisting of diverse backgrounds with median low family incomes of $40,000 to $59,000 for over 10 years. These adolescents reported in interviews that anxiety, self-worth, social acceptance and various symptoms of depression emerged as leading factors to the overarching topic of an unhealthy friendship.

Through this experiment, researchers discovered that teens who prioritized close friendships at the age of 15 had lower social anxiety, an increased sense of self-worth, and fewer symptoms of depression by the time they turned 25. On the other hand, those who were considered popular in high school exhibited high social anxiety when they were young adults.

Rachel K. Narr, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia who led the study, concluded: “High school students with high-quality best friendships tended to improve in several aspects of mental health over time, while teens who were popular among their peers during high school may be more prone to social anxiety later in life.”

A survey in the Concordia community was carried out, querying the high school pupils about their relationships with their friends. With a total of 23 responses, 78% of the students replied that they believe they possess close friendships within Concordia. Therefore, this further portrays the positive mental outlook of students at Concordia and how well they can maintain beneficial relationships with their peers.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you feel like your friends and you both equally give and take from each other?. Number of responses: 23 responses.

Narr stated that the results are particularly important for educators and parents to learn from. “A lot of adults treat adolescent relationships and friendships as something that’s kind of juvenile or transient – not something that’s going to stay with them – as kind of a distraction from things like school or work,” she said.

However, Narr proposes a different case. “Teenagers are really something when they are kind of obsessed with their peer group. These relationships are meaningful in the long term.” she said, “I think that just having the experience, whether it’s with one person, with three people, whatever, it is having an experience of having a really close, trusting, supportive relationship that goes really far.”