Companionships in Adolesence

A man is known, wo are told, by the company he keeps. This is very true of the adolescent; in childhood friendships are more or less haphazard, easily made and easily broken, but the youth selects his companions. When, therefore, parents find their boy or girl acquiring what they consider undesirable friends, their first care should be to discover what it is in their child which draws him or her to those friends.

Like is attracted to liko. Friends are selected because of mental similarity; a group of friends will be all about the same level of intelligence. Very clever children frequently have few or no friends at school; they may take the leadership in activities and be adored by others, but intimate friends they will lack. Very dull children are the butt of all.

Occasionally children of markedly dif-ferent intellectual ability make friends, the one acting as a foil or mirror to the other. This is always a friendship of two only; it does not happen in the group. It is akin to the not infrequent warm friendships, bordering on love, between older and younger boys, older and younger girls, girls and their teachers. These friendships are most frequent in boarding schools, least frequent where boys and girls mingle freely in work and play. When they occur under such conditions they are a sign of undevelopment in the elder or precosity in the younger child; though strongly developed maternal or possessive instinct in the elder may produce the situation.

Companions of their own ago, ability and interest are needful to young adolescents. To allow for natural development, the companions should be of both sexes. They learn with them social life, to overcome shyness, to find their own level, which it is impossible to do with adults. Moreover, there is in the young adolescent a growing urge to get away from the narrow bounds of the family, to become an independent person, to see life.

This process can be normally and smoothly effected only with the under-standing sympathy of the parents; it has been called, in fact, psychological weaning. Perhaps the most important feature is the willing readiness of parents to allow their boys and girls to mingle freely with companions of their own age, and to welcome unostentatiously those companions in the home.

Disputes over this freedom, over com-panionships, and the possessiveness of parents who want to keep their children all their own, lead invariably to revolt, insubordination and insolence, and usually the selection of a more reckless and feckless group of companions than would otherwise have been joined.

Parents who do keep their children to themselves, and will not allow them to mingle freely with others, arrest then: development and render them liable to dis-tressing neuroses, which may have exceed-ingly serious consequences during courtship and marriage, or may even preclude the possibility of marriage through an over-developed shyness.