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Childhood friendships and psychological difficulties in young adulthood: an 18-year follow-up study

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Abstract

Childhood friendships have been shown to impact mental health over the short term; however, it is unclear whether these effects are sustained into young adulthood. We studied the prospective association between childhood friendships and psychological difficulties in young adulthood. Data come from 1,103 French 22–35 year olds participating in the TEMPO study. Childhood friendships were ascertained in 1991 when participants were 4–16 years old. Psychological difficulties were measured in 2009 using the Adult Self-Report. Logistic regression models controlled for participants’ age, sex, childhood psychological difficulties and parental characteristics. Young adults who had no childhood friends had higher odds of psychological difficulties than those with at least one friend: (adjusted ORs 2.45; 95 % CI 1.32–4.66, p = 0.01 for high internalizing symptoms; 1.81; 95 % CI 0.94–3.54, p = 0.08 for high externalizing symptoms). Social relations early in life may have consequences for adult psychological well-being.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the GAZEL cohort study team for help in implementing the TEMPO study. This research was supported by the French Ministry of Health–IReSP (TGIR Cohortes, 2010 Research Call), the French Interdepartmental Mission for the Fight Against Drugs and Drug Addiction (MILDT), the French Institute of Cancer (INCa), and the French Foundation for Research on Psychiatry and Mental Health (FRPSM). Kwame Sakyi is supported by National Institute of Health’s training grant—T32DA13911. Maria Melchior is the recipient of a Young Researcher Award from the French National Research Agency (ANR).

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The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

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Sakyi, K.S., Surkan, P.J., Fombonne, E. et al. Childhood friendships and psychological difficulties in young adulthood: an 18-year follow-up study. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 24, 815–826 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-014-0626-8

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