"No Time for Friendship": Shanghai Mothers’ Views of Adult and Adolescent Friendships

Abstract

What is the relation between parents’ views of their own friendships and their beliefs and practices about their children’s
friendships? Do parents who enjoy high-quality adult friendships understand and support adolescent friendships in ways different
from parents who do not have close adult friendships? Relying on systematic analysis of interview data, this article demonstrates
discrepancies between six Shanghai mothers’ perceptions of their own friendships and their beliefs, attitudes, and concerns
about their adolescent children’s friendships. The article also presents five themes underlying the mothers’ ideas about adolescent
friendship: (a) no time for friendship, (b) good friends must have good grades, (c) it is important to make new friends, (d)
ambiguous feelings and contradictory attitudes, and (e) weariness of peers and society. The findings are interpreted from
three cultural and contextual perspectives: The Chinese tradition of emphasizing academic learning and proper behavior during
adolescence, the collectivist philosophy and practice of using peer pressure to improve social behavior, and Chinese parents’
anxiety over their children’s gaining edges in intense academic and job competition.

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