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Understanding Middle School Friendships

middle school friendsFor many girls, middle school becomes a pressure cooker filled with power struggles, conflicting impulses, physical growth and strong emotions. At the same time, middle-school girls develop deep and close friendships, separating from their families and forming their own rewarding social universes.

Here’s how one 15-year-old remembers middle school:

“In sixth grade I went to a new school. I was really eager to make new friends but keep my old ones. But in a matter of weeks, my former best friend was spreading rumors about me, having her friends pass me notes saying she hated me — someone even wrote something mean in my locker. I didn’t tell the teachers and I begged my parents not to say anything. Finally, after a few months we talked about it and figured it out. But it was pretty weird for a long time.”

Middle school can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. “One of the best things you can do for your daughter is not to assume she or other girls are, by nature, over-dramatic, mean, or gossipy,” says Lyn Mikel Brown. “Expectations matter — ask any good educator. Avoid ‘girls will be girls’ or ‘girls are so mean to each other’ messages. Appreciate and support your daughter’s best impulses, praise her when she takes risks, especially if they involve going against the social tide, support her individuality, and downplay concerns about what other people think. Encourage her to be friends with a wide spectrum of people (without forcing the issue), and always, always assume the best — so will she.”

There’s a lot that’s cool about middle school.
While much is written about mean girls, it’s important for parents to realize how much fun this time can be socially for their daughters. “In sixth and seventh grades, girls get excited about becoming preteens and having their own world,” says Catherine Steiner-Adair. “It’s a time when they develop their own set of interests and begin to think about the world around them.”

The nature of friendship changes in middle school.
At this stage, when girls get together what they mostly do is talk. They talk in person about music and clothes and boys — and then they talk online. “Parents get frustrated because they don’t get to hear their daughters talk the way they did when they were in elementary school,” notes Michael Thompson. “But we need to find ways to connect with our children other than being part of their social lives.”

The media set the tone for middle school.
Girls this age are thrilled that they are about to become teenagers. “There is a whole cultural pulse that taps into what they are thinking and feeling, and (like it or not) it’s really irresistible,” notes Steiner-Adair. Girls live their lives online, doing homework, watching TV, and talking to friends simultaneously. While they can use the Internet in wonderful ways, they can sometimes use it to flame and shame each other, spread vicious rumors, and post malicious information behind girls’ backs.

Hormones can affect behavior in middle school.
It’s hard to be a girl at this age and stage. “Hormones make many girls feel edgy, crabby, cranky, and teary,” notes Steiner-Adair. “Everyone’s bodies are developing and changing at different rates and this often makes girls feel uncomfortable with their own.” Raging hormones and interest in boys can also disrupt the existing social order. “When boys hit the scene it can be tough to sort out just how to interact in the same old way with girlfriends,” adds Meg White. “By the time your daughter is 10 or 11, it’s time to open a conversation about sex and boys, but I recommend parents back off from too much boy talk. When your daughter mentions a boy, don’t immediately jump to the possible attraction between them. It might or might not be there.”

The social hierarchy intensifies in middle school.
Cliques get clique-ier, the need to be in power intensifies, and girls can get meaner — and much of this behavior stems from the intense desire to belong, the need to feel powerful, and the conditioning that many girls have to not express their feelings directly. Some girls function as leaders, others as followers, and the rest live outside the groups. Some of these girls don’t care, while others desperately want to belong. But there is hope: “By eighth grade, in a certain sense, girls are done being mean to each other. They now are collectively ready to focus their attention towards sex — even if they’re not ready to fully act upon it,” says Thompson.

  • faith

    l think being friends with a girl and a boy is pretty awesome

    • Simone iles

      Me too you want meet with me

  • millie

    fifth grade is just as brutal. I was an early bloomer, and one girl said that I had silicone implants.

  • nakhira


  • Elizabeth

    Middle school is a very rough time for girls, as a 13 year old myself I know this. They’re are mean girls at our schools, and yes they are the popular ones that all the guys want to date. It’s especially hard if you’ve only lived in an area for a few years because others have been friends for years. There are sad things like cutting, depression, and bulemics. So, don’t think middle school is a perfect place. From a personal note to all parents, don’t think just because your child was once a social butterfly when they were younger, that it means that they are one now. If they say they have few friends or that they hate middle school, let them say it or talk to you. Don’t say your being ridiculous or others have it worse than you because every one has their own feelings.

    • Simone iles

      I think that child abuse is sad

  • :/

    Hmm… I don’t know if I like the way this article is suggesting that teenage girls are always so bitchy, mean, and dramatic. Only certain girls are that way. This article is making all teenage girls sound like snobby rich white girls. :/

    • anonymous

      I left regular school after junior high because most of the girls were so miserable and out of control that I thought normal school was a waste of time. It is a serious issue of identity at that age and difficult to navigate if you are unwilling to be ruthless in every social encounter at a school.

  • Tina Mackay

    Looking back I would have liked a different middle school experience. Girls can be very mean… and the meanest can be your best friends.

  • lghasdguyagf

    its innaporprate and dosnt help grrr

  • lghasdguyagf


  • lghasdguyagf

    theyre skonkas

  • nbkfgmlgd

    jose is ugly

  • nbkfgmlgd

    jose is mean

  • skonkasthesedays

    jose is a skonko

  • joseisaskonko

    They now are collectively ready to focus their attention towards sex — even if they’re not ready to fully act upon it,” says Thompson.


  • joseisaskonko


  • joseisaskonko

    They now are collectively ready to focus their attention towards sex — even if they’re not ready to fully act upon it,” says Thompson.


  • lisandra


  • lisandra


  • lisandra

    im a skonka

  • lisandra


  • lisandra


  • josefinaismydad

    josefina is my dad

  • Simone iles

    Middle School is rough time for girls as 11 year old as myself I think girls should be nice. So if do that in real life it won’t be funny .

    • Quinya

      You sound very nice and I agree with you and I wish their were more 11 year olds like you and me

      • Tay

        Im 12 and i agree with you guys fully

  • Simone iles

    You think child abuse is sad

  • suzanne


  • Paula Throop

    “One of the best things you can do for your daughter is not to assume she or other girls are, by nature….. mean, or gossipy,” ~ Oh really??? I learned the hard way, that advice is BS. They picked away at my child until she developed panic attacks and clinical depression. Now she attends a small grade K-8 school with only 65 kids and she is fine. The problem is not with the kids themselves, it’s with the system. It is ridiculous and naive to assume we can have large classes of adolescents with fewer teachers and call it a safe environment. Sorry, but for any kid outside the neuro-typical box (20 out of 28 kids in her grade 5 class fit that description), this formula is downright dangerous.

  • Amber Barr

    I’m about to start middle school any advice

  • Sophia

    Yes, middle school can be really hard :( but it gets better but then somethings get worst. for example: all the guys wanted to date the popular girls in 5th,6th, and 7th grade. now in 8th grade they just think those girls are trying to hard and are obnoxious and now they are striving for pretty girls who are average in the school and have a good sense of humor and all those things. So dating gets better. However, bullying gets worst. I have had people tell me to take drugs and cut my wrists and basically go and kill myself. But in highschool (which will be next year for me) it will get all better. Dating will be just as good (or maybe better) and all the bullying will go by in a breeze because people will be worrying about themselves and they will be more mature and think “been there, done that”. ik this cause i have friends who are a grade above me and are freshmen. They tell me that everything is so much happier!

  • dabigpodina

    Because the people in the bible were black. And black women and girls wear braids.

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