Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children

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Random House Publishing Group, Oct 24, 2001 - Psychology - 320 pages
3 Reviews
Friends broaden our children’s horizons, share their joys and secrets, and accompany them on their journeys into ever wider worlds. But friends can also gossip and betray, tease and exclude. Children can cause untold suffering, not only for their peers but for parents as well. In this wise and insightful book, psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and children’s book author Catherine O’Neill Grace, illuminate the crucial and often hidden role that friendship plays in the lives of children from birth through adolescence.

Drawing on fascinating new research as well as their own extensive experience in schools, Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships begin early–in infancy–and run exceptionally deep in intensity and loyalty. As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.

Best Friends, Worst Enemies brings to life the drama of childhood relationships, guiding parents to a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of social behavior. Here you will find penetrating discussions of the difference between friendship and popularity, how boys and girls deal in unique ways with intimacy and commitment, whether all kids need a best friend, why cliques form and what you can do about them.

Filled with anecdotes that ring amazingly true to life, Best Friends, Worst Enemies probes the magic and the heartbreak that all children experience with their friends. Parents, teachers, counselors–indeed anyone who cares about children–will find this an eye-opening and wonderfully affirming book.

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Very Insightful Info for Parents

User Review  - Busy M0m - Borders

This book prompted me to take a closer look at my child's interaction with other kids and take notice of the patterns that are forming. Very interesting and important information for all parents. I ... Read full review

Best friends, worst enemies: understanding the social lives of children

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Bullying has become an area of concern in the media and society. This book discusses that topic but weaves it into a broader study of children's friendships. Thompson, a clinical psychologist and ... Read full review


Title Page
An Invitation to a Birthday Party
Secure Attachment in the First
A Developmental Tour
When Kids Have Best Friends
The Power of the Group
Social Cruelty in the Lives
How Kids Manage Conflict

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About the author (2001)

Michael Thompson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, lecturer, consultant and former seventh grade teacher. He conducts workshops on the development of boys and social cruelty in childhood for both public and private schools across the United States. He is the author of Speaking of Boys and coauthor, with Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., of The New York Times bestseller Raising Cain. The father of a daughter and a son, he and his wife observe children’s friendships from their home in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Catherine O’Neill Grace, a writer and editor, is a former elementary, middle, and high school teacher, and was the editor of Independent School magazine. She wrote a column for young readers about health and psychology in The Washington Post for fifteen years, and is the author of numerous nonfiction books for children. She and her husband, a headmaster, live on the campus of a boarding school near Boston.

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