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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication


Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter Six: Children's Peer Relationships Outside the Family

← 112 | 113 →CHAPTER SIX



“ … the world of peers constitutes a challenging and sometimes unforgiving environment.”

—HAY, PAYNE, & CHADWICK (2004, p. 100)

Research on toddlers as young as 18 months indicates that they are developing the requisite prosocial skills for creating friendships (Svetlova, Nichols, & Brownell, 2010). By preschool, children’s friendships benefit them by extending their peer acceptance and enhancing teachers’ evaluation of their competence (Lindsey, 2002). Preschoolers are in tune enough to social relationships with their peers that observers note that their “best friendships” are distinguishable from their “friendships” in providing more support and companionship (Sebanc, Kearns, Hernandez, & Galvin, 2007). These early peer relationships set the stage for childhood friendships, the lack of which can lead to negative consequences spanning both internalizing and externalizing behaviors (e.g., Engle, McElwain, & Lasky, 2011; Nangle, Erdley, Newman, Mason, & Carpenter, 2003).

This chapter will briefly review research that demonstrates the importance of children’s friendships to their immediate and long-term social and mental health. The main focus, however, will be upon the research that discusses communication activities within peer relationships (including peer groups, friendships, and best friendships). We will look at communication activities that both attract (e.g., initiating get-togethers, self-disclosure) and repel (aggression, negative emotional displays) peers within the childhood years (e.g., Asher, Parker, & Walker, 1996; ← 113 | 114 → Burgess, Wojslawowicz, Rubin, Rose-Krasnor, & Booth-LaForce, 2006; Gottman, Gonso, & Rasmussen, 1975; Sebanc, 2003; Rose & Asher, 2004).

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