Childhood friendships and the clustering of adverse circumstances in adulthood - a longitudinal study of a Stockholm cohort

Ylva B Almquist, Lars Brännström


Friendships constitute a central feature of childhood, yet little is known about the developmental significance extending beyond childhood and adolescence. The aim of the present study was therefore to investigate the association between childhood friendships and adult outcomes. Since many outcomes in adulthood go hand in hand, the outcome pattern as a whole was targeted. Based on a longitudinal data material consisting of more than 14,000 individuals born in Stockholm in 1953, a cluster analysis of adult circumstances (1992-2007) was first conducted. Second, the association between three indicators of childhood friendships (1966) and the outcome profiles was analysed by means of multinomial regression analysis. The results indicated that children who lacked leisure time friends and a best friend in the school class had increased risks of ending up in the more adverse clusters as adults, whereas the opposite association was found for those who reported being solitary. The effect of childhood friendships was rather consistent across both single and multiple problems, suggesting that the disadvantages of being without friends in childhood do not accumulate over the life course to any large extent. Generally, the results were the same for males and females. It is concluded that childhood friendships are important for adverse circumstances in adulthood, for both genders. As far as the long-lasting effects of children's friendships involve varying access to social support, school-based interventions should compensate for the scarcity of support following the lack of childhood friends.


Childhood; friendship; living conditions; life course; cohort; cluster analysis

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