How Do Childrens’ Friendships Impact Their Cognition?

Childrens’ friendships impact not only their social development, but also their cognitive development. In fact, researchers have found that there are differences between female-female, male-female, and male-male child friendships on cognition. In this blog post, we discuss how childrens’ friendships impact their cognition.

Researchers studied 72 children in years 1, 3, & 5.  The children were paired to work with one another according to sex, ability, and status (friendship versus acquaintance). The pairs of children each performed a science reasoning task. Dyads were also interviewed by researchers about their friendship qualities and activities that characterized their relationship. 

Interestingly, researchers found that girls’ friendship pairings performed successfully at the highest levels of the science reasoning task, while boys’ friendship pairings performed at the lowest levels. Boy-girl acquaintance pairings performed the science reasoning task successfully at a mid-level of difficulty. The discrepancies between the sex friendship pairings is thought to be due to activity participation differences: with girls participating in more school-inclusive activities and boys engaging in more school exclusive activities.

The results of this study are of interest for education professionals, as they may help with grouping strategies in performing group cognitive tasks. These grouping strategies may help students perform better at more difficult tasks, learn social skills, and develop better peer relationships in their classrooms. Perhaps by encouraging male/female pairings, female students may share educational considerations that male students may not be exposed to in their male-male friendships.


Childrens’ friendships impact not only their social development, but their cognitive development. In a study with 72 children, researchers found that female-female friendship dyads performed a science reasoning task successfully in comparison to male-male friendship dyads who performed the same reasoning task successfully at the lowest level. Male-female acquaintance dyads were able to perform the reasoning task successfully at mid-level difficulty. Researchers believe that the discrepancies between the sexes have something to do with activity participation differences, as girls tend to engage in more school-inclusive activities than do boys. These results may help education professionals develop grouping strategies for classroom activities that may help students improve their learning and social skills.


Kutnick, P., & Kington, A. (2005). Children’s friendships and learning in school: Cognitive enhancement through social interaction?. British journal of educational psychology, 75(4), 521-538. Chicago
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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