A recent study, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, by Laura Bechtiger and colleagues from the Risk and Resilience research team (PI: Lilly Shanahan) and the COCON study (PI: Marlis Buchmann) examined whether sympathy and mutual disclosure in friendships are bidirectionally associated from mid-adolescence to young adulthood.
There is a strong theoretical basis to assume that sympathy, the ability to feel concern for another person, and friendship intimacy, as indicated by mutual disclosure, co-develop in adolescence. Yet, longitudinal empirical studies of this association were lacking, especially during the mid-adolescent to young adulthood years. Leveraging three waves of the adolescent cohort of the COCON study, this new paper shows that there are bidirectional but time-varying associations between sympathy and mutual disclosure in friendships from ages 15 to 21. Specifically, higher levels of sympathy at age 15 were significantly associated with more frequent mutual disclosure in friendships at age 18, which in turn was associated with higher levels of sympathy at age 21. This is especially the case for adolescent females. These results highlight adolescence as a time of opportunity for learning empathic emotions and mutual disclosure in friendships.
Bechtiger, L., Steinhoff, A., Buchmann, M., & Shanahan, L. (2021). Bidirectional associations between sympathy and self-disclosure in friendships from mid adolescence to early adulthood. Journal of Research on Adolescence. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12602