Journal of Ethology

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 21–31 | Cite as

The function of friends in preschoolers' lives: at the entrance to the classroom

  • Hisako Shibasaka


The function of friendships and peer attachment in preschoolers' everyday lives is examined from the ethological view point. It is postulated that a child invests time and energy in friends or play partners chosen by him/herself: the child collects information about the friends and attempts to influence their special behavioural tendencies to his/her own advantage. As a result of this long-term investment, the friends are more predictable, controllable, and cooperative. It is hypothesized that a child uses and benefits from the friends in attempts to reach his/her personal goals. This study examines whether a child benefits from friends in attempts to join in play. Seventeen German preschool children (10 boys and 7 girls) ranging in age from 36 to 79 months were observed on arrival at school on 18 preschool days. When friends were present in the classroom, children first approached peers more often than when friends were not present; otherwise they approached the teacher. Friends often actively initiated interaction with arriving children, for example by calling the child's name. Success in joining in play was highest when friends were chosen as the target of the approach. During approaches to friends, tactics were more frequently used which require specific information about the target. However, when friends were playing with nonfriends of the children, benefits such as initiation by the target and the larger range of alternatives in strategies were not observed. The results support the hypothesis that a child uses and benefits from friends. The results further suggest that the relationships of friends with other peers disturb the beneficial effects of friends and that such relationships even increases the costs in interactions with friends.


Beneficial Effect Everyday Life Large Range Preschool Child Specific Information 
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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hisako Shibasaka
    • 1
  1. 1.Forschungsstelle für Humanethologie in der Max-Planck-GesellschaftMax-Planck-Institut für VerhaltensphysiologieSeewiesenW-Germany

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