Qualitative Understanding of Adolescent Friendships

As described in this chapter, implications from our own qualitative research (Way, 1998; Way & Pahl, 1999) suggest that longitudinal studies would also benefit from the inclusion of a qualitative component aimed at understanding the experiences of friendships themselves. Indeed, our qualitative findings indicate that what some presume to be the typical friendship patterns of adolescent boys (based primarily on survey research) inadequately represents the types of friendships that, at the very least, urban, ethnically diverse adolescent boys from low-income families actually experience or desire. We believe that such qualitative findings have significant implications for future studies of adolescents' friendships, and development more broadly. By relying exclusively on survey research for descriptions of adolescent processes, resulting theoretical predictions and explanations of such processes may be based on insufficient grounding. Taking into account participants' voices and personal experiences, qualitative, interview based research with ethnically diverse groups of youth should strengthen current understanding of adolescent development and, consequently, human development.

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