Child Peer Groups Change with Age

EAST LANSING, Mich., Aug. 16 (UPI) — Some social differences between boys and girls tend to disappear by the time children reach the eighth grade, a U.S. researcher says.

A Michigan State University psychologist says although young girls tend to hang out in smaller, more intimate groups than boys, this peer network behavior vanishes as they get older, a university release said Monday.

The findings suggest “girls and boys aren’t as different as we think they are,” Jennifer Watling Neal, MSU assistant professor of psychology, says.

Neal studied how girls’ and boys’ peer networks develop across grades.

Because peer groups can promote both negative behaviors like bullying and positive behaviors like helping others, Neal says, it’s important to have a clear picture of what these peer groups look like.

“Although we tend to think that girls’ and boys’ peer groups are structured differently, these differences disappear as children get older,” Neal says.

The reason may have to do with an increased interaction with the opposite sex as children get older, she says.

“Younger boys and girls tend to play in same-sex peer groups,” Neal says. “But every parent can relate to that moment when their son or daughter suddenly takes an interest, whether social or romantic, in the opposite sex.”

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