Losing and gaining friends: Does friendship instability compromise academic functioning in middle school?

J Sch Psychol. 2018 Aug:69:143-153. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2018.05.003. Epub 2018 May 31.


Extending past research on the academic benefits of having close friends in early adolescence, the study examines how instability of friendships (i.e., losses and gains of friends) is related to academic engagement and performance in middle school. The sample was drawn from a longitudinal study of ethnically diverse youth across 26 middle schools (N = 5991). The results demonstrated that over two thirds of friends were either lost or gained during the first year in middle school. When controlling for friendship network size, both friendship losses and gains were concurrently associated with lower academic engagement and performance at spring of sixth grade. Moreover, higher overall instability during the first year in middle school was related to lower academic engagement in seventh grade, which in turn, predicted lower grade point average (GPA) by the end of middle school. The findings suggest that friendship instability captures a disruptive social process that can compromise academic functioning in middle school.

Keywords: Academic engagement; Academic performance; Friendship; Middle school.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Minority Groups