Peer groups

The following extract is from a book by the expert paediatric team at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead called The Complete Parenting Guide:

Children move through particular stages of friendship. As they grow older, their ideas about friendship become more sophisticated. Some children who are more mature progress through the stages of friendship more quickly than others.

2- to 4-year olds

Preschoolers tend to stick with children who are familiar, and to have one or two relationships that may last for some time. Preschoolers will call the children they play with most their friends. Their friendships are usually based on who they see most often, such as the children of their parents’ friends or their neighbours.

5- to 7-year olds

Once children start school, they begin to understand the concept of long-term friends. Their relationships start to be more stable, although their own needs still come first. For example, they may say things like ‘If you don’t give me that ball, I won’t be your friend anymore.’

8- to 11-year olds

At around 8 years of age, children start to realise that friendship is a two-way thing. They are prepared to adjust to other children’s wants rather than dropping ‘friends’ who don’t do as they say. They feel free to argue to try to reach an agreement or to compromise so that the friendship can continue. Friendships now involve an element of trust, and they can end suddenly if either child feels the trust has been broken in some way.

Children of this age are more interested in pleasing and impressing their peers than pleasing adults. They will tend to take on roles that suit them and that bring the biggest reward, such as class clown or helpful friend.

To gain approval from peers, children will often conform to the group. Friendships with children of the same sex can become very close, and may involve secret codes or loyalty pledges.

Gifted and Talented Children

When a child is particularly gifted, this can mean added stress for parents as they grapple with responsibilities involved in nurturing and extending their child’s talents. It’s important to remember that no matter how talented your child is, they still have many of the same needs as other children.

Gifted children and friendship

Sometimes gifted children seem to have no friends, and they may seem to be isolated in the classroom. But research shows that this is because they can’t find the level of friendship they are looking for among children of the same age. Gifted children need contact with other children of similar ability, or older children. For more information contact the Association for Gifted and Talented Children in your state.

For more information about programs for gifted and talented children:

Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented:

Or visit the website for your state association:
•    New South
•    Northern Territory:
•    Queensland:
•    South Australia:
•    Tasmania:
•    Victoria:
•    Western Australia: