The investigators accomplished this by giving school kids in fifth, eighth and eleventh grades and their mothers questionnaires that explored the quality of their most important friendships. They also gave the parents and kids tests of emotional health. When mothers reported high levels of negative quality with a good friend (such as getting on each others’ nerves, getting upset or mad at each other often), kids were likely to report similar verbal antagonism and heated arguments with a close friend.
So could moms be good role models for their children by having more positive connections with their friends? Unfortunately, no. The study’s lead author Gary Glick, a doctoral candidate in psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, says the team did not find a strong link between mothers’ positive friendship qualities and those of their teens. “Maybe,” Glick says, “kids are more likely to notice adults screaming at each other.”
The fact that adolescents’ friendships mimic those of a parent, is not surprising, given that development is about learning and imitating behaviors. “Adolescents,” says clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, are in the midst of forming their internal templates for social norms and therefore parental role models are critical. In fact, watching adolescents interact with their peers often is a mirror of how parents interact with their own peers.”