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Children: The Thoughtful Friends Study was a collaboration with the CUB Lab at the University of Mississippi. We examined how the ability to control behavior was related to social understanding and friendships. Second graders played games related to control (e.g., remembering items in a list, using rules to sort cards). Children then answered questions about their friends and how they would feel in different friendship situations (e.g., if their friend was unreliable). Finally, children played several games related to perspective taking. This study provides information about how control and problem solving may relate to social interactions and friendships.
Adults: We extended this study to college students enrolled at the University of Mississippi. The design was similar to the child study, but tasks were appropriate for adults.
The Peer Project was a study conducted with 5th grade children. We examined the role of friends in bullying (also known as peer victimization). Children were contacted through Richmond Community Schools. Families interested in participating were contacted via phone and completed interviews for seven days. Children answered questions about their mood and described both positive and negative peer experiences that occurred each day. We found, not surprisingly, that children had more negative mood on days they were teased or bullied, particularly if no one intervened (tried to stop the bullying, consoled the child, etc.) However, children who had generally helpful friends were less affected by bullying, even if their friends were not present to intervene. The results of this study highlight the importance of bystanders taking action when they see instances of bullying. It also highlights the importance of high-quality friendships in children’s social and emotional lives.