Our teenage years are formative in so many ways. Yes, we’re fueled by hormones and can’t wait to taste the sweet nectar of freedom from our parents. But it’s during this time that we also begin to understand a little better just who we are, who we want to be, and what kind of mark we want to leave on the world.
And, as much as we hate to admit it, we also learn some pretty important life lessons. For example, never lock eyes with a cute guy on the street while you’re backing out of a parking spot. Otherwise, you might find the bumper of your new navy-blue Mustang dented. (Yeah, that one hurt. I’m still a fanatic about checking my mirrors when I back out.)
Another important lesson we pick up during adolescence is how to foster meaningful friendships. You know it’s true. Just think about the bridesmaid in your wedding party who has photographic evidence of that awkward stage in high school you’re trying to forget. That’s a relationship that will last a lifetime for sure.
According to a recent study in the journal Child Development, this ability to form and maintain close and satisfying relationships with our best gal pals when we’re young may actually have an impact on our future romantic relationships as adults.
Researchers at the University of Virginia followed 165 racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse 13-year-olds until they hit the big 3-0. Over the course of the study period, the authors interviewed participants periodically to measure the quality of their social and romantic relationships, among other things.
Ultimately, the authors found that “[p]rogress in key developmental tasks, including establishing positive expectations and capacity for assertiveness with peers at age 13, social competence at ages 15 and 16, and ability to form and maintain strong close friendships at ages 16–18, predicted romantic life satisfaction at ages 27–30.”
In other words, the tools you learn to foster those long-lasting friendships as a teen are actually very useful when you’re an adult trying to navigate a long-lasting love.
The study’s authors also found that how attractive you were in high school or the length of your list of boyfriends back then has little to do with your future love life.
"Romantic relationships in adolescence are much more likely to be fleeting, and as such, they don't appear to be the main way teens learn skills needed for the future," Rachel K. Narr, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia who co-authored the study, said in a news release .
Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology who led the study, also pointed out that “it's the skills learned in friendships with peers of the same gender—skills such as stability, assertiveness, intimacy, and social competence—that correspond most closely to the skills needed for success in adult romantic relationships."
Isn’t it great knowing that all that stress and pressure you put on yourself to date in high school probably had no bearing on how happy you are in your relationship today?
Anyway, take this time to celebrate the besties you grew up with, even if they’re not taking part in your wedding. Without them, this shindig may not even be happening.