Shared knowledge in children's friendships

Gary W. Ladd, Elizabeth S. Emerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Investigated reciprocity in friends' knowledge of each other's personal-social characteristics (i.e., shared knowledge), as a function of age and type of friendship. Using a picture-sort procedure, friends (n=48 dyads) from each of 2 grade levels (1st and 4th) and 2 types of friendships (mutual and unilateral) selected items that were most descriptive of themselves and their friend. Shared knowledge was indexed by summing the number of items that were chosen by both partners as (a) descriptive of themselves and their friend (self-referenced shared knowledge) and (b) descriptive of their friend but not themselves (other-referenced shared knowledge). Estimates of partner similarity and acquaintance were also obtained for each dyad. Although the findings suggest a decline in partner similarity with age, mutual as opposed to unilateral friends were more alike at each grade level and more accurate at predicting characteristics that were common to both partners. Evidence suggesting that friends develop a reciprocal awareness of their partners' differences from the self was obtained only for mutual friends at the 4th-grade level. Friendships between older Ss were characterized by longer periods of acquaintance. Results are discussed in terms of recent theory and research on person perception and friendship formation during childhood. (16 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)932-940
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • age & mutual vs unilateral friendship, reciprocity in acknowledgment of each other's personal-social characteristics, 2nd vs 4th graders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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