8.2 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: What are the aspects of friendship at different stages of development?

ii) Describe aspects of friendship at different stages of development


The nature of friendship changes as individuals mature. Selman and Selman (1979) came up with different types of friendship that are seen at various stages of development. In the stages there are no clear-cut boundaries but the friendship behviours found in a certain stage are within the normal range.


Stage 1: Momentary Playmateship (3-7 years)

During this period children are egocentric. As a result, they are only concerned about what they want from others but not what others want from them. Friends at this stage are defined by how close they live or their material possession. Children are able to say why they like or do not like others. For example, they might say they like others because of play activities in which they participate together. They also talk about physical appearance; that is a child may say that he or she likes another because of physical attributes such as, long hair, beautiful eyes and the like.

A child may base friendship on proximity. A child who lives within the neighborhood is likely to be available for play, thus meeting the child’s need for playmateship.


On the other hand children dislike their aggressive peers. They also dislike peers who show little or no interest in play. Reasons for liking or disliking vary with age.


Stage 2: One-Way Assistance (4-10 years)

During this stage, children are able to tell the difference between their own perspective and that of others. They understand that their peers may have interests that are different from theirs. However, friendship depends on the ability of a friend to do what the child wants done. At around five years, they give reasons of liking their friends in relation to things they do together and the physical characteristics such as height, strength or mere attractiveness.


At around 7 years, they talk about affection. Friendship becomes more stable with age. As they mature, children become increasingly aware of motives and personality characteristics as the criteria for defining friendship.

Stage 3:  Two-way Fair Weather Co-operation (6-12 years)

Children acknowledge that in friendship there is giving and taking. Nevertheless, they perceive friendship as mutually serving individual interest rather than mutual cooperation towards a common interest. This means that the participants still harbor some egocentrism. Friends are generally defined as those who share with one another. There is emphasis on reciprocation. Children gradually realize that friendship is based on getting along, sharing interests, feelings and ideas.


Stage 4: Intimate Mutually Shared Relationship (9-14 years)

Individuals view friendship as an entity by itself. To them, friendship is an ongoing commitment that’s involves more than just doing things for each other. However, friendship at this stage often involves possessiveness and jealousy. For instance, an individual feels betrayed when the friend walks with another person.  Friendship at this stage may be described as “suffocating.”


Stage 5: Autonomous – Interdependent Friendship (Adolescence to Adulthood)

From around 12 years, individuals, become capable of respecting their friends’ needs for both dependency and autonomy. They understand that even if their friends interact with others, they still remain faithful to their friendship. This is characteristic of people who are mature.  Such people have unconditional trust in friendships.


Study the behaviour of friendship among pre school and Standard One children. Analyse the aspects of their aspects by supporting or disapproving the views of Selman and Selman.



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