A new study has said that having a good set of in-school friends, instead of outside school pals, may be the key to a child's academic progress.
UCLA professor of psychiatry and senior study author Andrew J. Fuligni and first author Melissa R. Witkow, a former graduate student of Fuligni's, claim adolescents with more in-school friends than out-of-school friends had higher grade-point averages.
Also, they found in their study, that those with higher GPAs had more in-school friends.
The authors found that these associations were similar for boys and girls and cut across all ethnic groups.
Drawing from three Los Angeles-area high schools, the researchers recruited 629 12th-grade students, split almost evenly by sex, with an average age of 18; no single ethnic group predominated. The students filled out a questionnaire, then kept a diary in which they logged such activities as time spent studying, time spent with in-school or out-of-school friends, and other activities.
Roughly speaking, the more in-school friends a child had, the higher the GPA.
Witkow said: "We found that within an adolescent's friendship group, those with a higher proportion of friends who attended the same school received higher grades. This is partially because in-school friends are more likely to be achievement-oriented and share and support school-related activities, including studying, because they are all in the same environment."
This is not to dismiss or put a negative spin on a child's friends from outside school.
Witkow said. "These friendships are still important in terms of fulfilling adolescents' social needs, and they are not necessarily always detrimental to achievement. For instance, friendships that form in academic settings outside of school, such as at an enrichment class, may very well promote achievement."
The study has been published in the online edition of the Journal of Research on Adolescence.