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One of the most common questions parents have is whether their child has enough friends. There is no singular answer to this question. Each child is different, and a lot depends on both their personal interests and personality.

How many friends should a child have?

Some children are perfectly fine having 1 or 2 close friends, and don’t need any more. Others don’t feel right unless they have 5 or 6. It all depends on the particular child.

Age also makes a significant difference. Young children under the age of 7 or 8 may not need any friends at all. They have playmates to play with, but not necessarily friends in the traditional sense. Adults serve as their primary source of love and affirmation, whereas other kids are more like a toy: something fun to do.

By around first or second grade, however, there is significant growth in social awareness. A child’s friendships become more important, taking on social and psychological significance as opposed to just being a partner to play with. (Youniss & Volpe, 1978) As such, having friends becomes more important to children as they grow.As far as the actual numbers are concerned, most studies have found there’s little meaningful difference between having a few friends and having a lot. What matters is the quality of a person’s friendships more than the actual number. (Parker, 2021)

What’s more important than the number of friends is that your child has the ability to make and keep friendships and that they are sociable with kids their own age. If they struggle in these areas, that’s a cause for concern.

If you’re concerned that your child doesn’t have enough friends

It’s important to take a look at the role your own ego might be playing in this assessment. Parents can’t help but see their children through the filter of their own childhood. So if you grew up popular and surrounded by lots of friends, it may feel awkward to have a child who is much less socially inclined, even if this isn’t a problem. Each child is different, and some are perfectly fine without a lot of friends.

That said, recent surveys have hinted at a definite problem when it comes to young people and their access to friends. Twenty-two percent of millenials say they have no friends at all, and 43% of people say the friendships they do have are not meaningful. Rates of social isolation are increasing, with the youngest generations reporting the fewest close friends and the highest rates of loneliness. (Hawley, 2019; Sasse, 2018; Marie Claire, May 2019, p. 120) If you think your child is in danger of falling into this abyss of the friend-less, see our page on helping a child make friends.

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