Young children make friends faster than teenagers when they move into more affluent neighborhoods

December 16, 2018 by Amy Mccaig, Rice University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Elementary school children who move from low-income to higher-income neighborhoods form new friendships faster than teenagers, according to a newly released study conducted by a Rice University researcher.

"The Age of Belonging: Friendship Formation After Residential Mobility," authored by Anna Rhodes, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice, appears in the December edition of Social Forces. The study examined how children adjusted to more affluent neighborhoods and higher-performing schools after their families moved with the help of a housing voucher program.

Friendships with their peers play a big part in how children adapt to higher-income neighborhoods, Rhodes said. The way the children she studied formed new friendships varied dramatically between youth who moved during middle childhood (ages 9-12) and adolescence (13-20).

While elementary school age children in the study generally made friends quickly—in part thanks to shared activities and other things in common – teenagers took longer and exercised more caution. Teens were also more likely to maintain friendships in their old neighborhoods.

"The younger children who moved benefited from an easier process of making new friends, on top of less exposure to high-poverty neighborhoods," Rhodes wrote. "These new friends then supported children's sense of belonging in their new school and encouraged their engagement and academic motivation in school, which enhances the potential for these children to experience educational benefits following the move. In contrast, the adolescents, who were more cautious and slow about forming new friendships and maintained old relationships, did not enjoy the same benefits."

Previous research suggests that a sense of belonging can impact how well students adjust to a new and how well they perform in the classroom, Rhodes said. Offering families who move into new neighborhoods information about social, recreational and might help adolescents form as quickly as younger children.

Rhodes' study examined the behavior of 79 low-income black youth after they moved to higher-income neighborhoods in suburban Baltimore as part of a residential mobility program. As Congress considers authorizing a new housing choice voucher program, Rhodes emphasized need to understand how families – especially children – deal with the experience of moving into their new homes.

"These findings highlight the importance of providing families with information about the resources they can access in their new communities that will promote their 's social integration after they move," Rhodes wrote. "Youth of all ages experience benefits from moving to safe, low-poverty , but acknowledging the age-specific challenges youth face when negotiating this move will help us more effectively support them through the social transition that comes with moving."

Explore further: Polluted city neighborhoods are bad news for asthmatic children

Related Stories

Polluted city neighborhoods are bad news for asthmatic children

October 18, 2018

Children with asthma who grow up in a New York City neighborhood where air pollution is prevalent need emergency medical treatment more often than asthmatics in less polluted areas. This is according to researchers from Columbia ...

Neighborhoods can help buffer impacts from childhood poverty

June 6, 2018

In one of the first studies to examine the effect of both socioeconomic status and neighborhoods on children's health, researchers at San Francisco State University and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found ...

Recommended for you

A decade on, smartphone-like software finally heads to space

March 20, 2019

Once a traditional satellite is launched into space, its physical hardware and computer software stay mostly immutable for the rest of its existence as it orbits the Earth, even as the technology it serves on the ground continues ...

Tiny 'water bears' can teach us about survival

March 20, 2019

Earth's ultimate survivors can weather extreme heat, cold, radiation and even the vacuum of space. Now the U.S. military hopes these tiny critters called tardigrades can teach us about true toughness.

Researchers find hidden proteins in bacteria

March 20, 2019

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a way to identify the beginning of every gene—known as a translation start site or a start codon—in bacterial cell DNA with a single experiment and, through ...

Turn off a light, save a life, says new study

March 20, 2019

We all know that turning off lights and buying energy-efficient appliances affects our financial bottom line. Now, according to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, we know that saving energy also saves ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.