Edmund Kearney '83 | June 16, 2018
Yesterday my son’s best friend announced that he was moving to a new preschool. He is only 2 years old, but I know my son felt sad. I don’t know how long his sadness will last. I’m not saying he is depressed. I’m just aware of his sadness.
I was surprised by the reaction of others as I related my son’s situation. Almost every parent had a similar story to share. Curiously, each story concluded with the trite adage, “Oh, he’ll forget about Tony soon.” I know the memory trace will eventually fade, and he will develop new friends. Bu that was not the question I was asking or what caused my concern. I just do not know what his experience of loss and sadness, or even of friendship, is like.
So I decided to do some research. In the grand tradition of developmental psychology, I decided to ask his older sister about her experience as she lost friends early on. I asked the 5-year-old expert about Matthew and Jonathan, two boys she was quite attached to when she was 2. She remembered their names and smiled. She even related a few experiences. But she was not sad. And she had moved on to develop many friendships since. I was beginning to think that all the opinions were right, that I was making too much out of a normal part of life. Leave it to the child psychologist father to overinterpret.
I looked it up in books. Of course I found that these two boys were not capable of true friendship. They had not yet developed the “social-cognitive skills” necessary for a truly “reciprocal relationship.” According to some research, they were over a year away from even reaching the first developmental level of friendship. Certainly with their immature language skills they would not be able to explain their understanding of friendship to us. But does that mean that they feel the effects of friendship less?
Read more here.