Here's Why Our Middle School Friends Drifted Away (And No, It Wasn't Our Fault)


A new study on friendship is calling bullshit on Vitamin C's whole "Friends Forever" theory — and is putting our dramatic seventh-grade experiences in perspective:

Our middle school friendships were designed to fail — and it's nothing we did wrong.

The study: Research out of Florida Atlantic University tracked the friendships of 410 adolescents "who reported a total of 573 reciprocated friendships that originated in the seventh grade." Researchers checked in on the friendships yearly until the kids reached senior year of high school.

A mere 1% stayed intact 'til the end.

Anyone who's ever lamented the death of a tween BFF-ship probably won't be surprised, given how few of us are still close with our middle school pals. But the study's explanation for why those friendships drifted offers some consolation: It probably had nothing to do with you as a person. 


"Grade 7 individual characteristics were unrelated to friendship stability," the researchers, led by doctoral student Amy C. Hartl, concluded. "But Grade 7 differences in sex, peer acceptance, physical aggression and school competence predicted subsequent friendship dissolution." 

In other words, the friendships were doomed not because of one kid's popularity, smarts or other personality traits. Rather it's the differences between friends — "friendships between the unpopular and popular, or straight-A students and C-students, or boys and girls," as the Science of Us put it — that drives tween friends apart.

Fleeting, yet pivotal: Don't you wish you could time travel these results back to your fragile seventh-grade self? Past research has shown that our middle school and high school years are some of our most insecure of all. Many of us were probably too quick to ask what was "wrong" with us when we felt our friendships start to fade.

But this new study assures us that it's just the very cliched but real phenomenon of "growing apart." Moreover, those bound-to-fade friendships aren't inherently less valuable; in fact, studies have shown that they are crucial in the moment. 

Middle school and high school are some of the most awkward, not to mention formative, years of our lives, and having reciprocal friendships is an important way to adjust to the challenges of school and even contribute to our academic success. Plus, how we navigated those friendships in middle school can predict how we'll fare socially as adults.

Even if the original friendships weren't designed for the kind of lifelong success Vitamin C sang about. If only someone told us this back in the day — we'd have been able to take her emotional refrain with a much-needed grain of salt.


h/t Science of Us