Studying Children’s Friendships in Bigelow and La Gaipa: Comparison

In this essay you will read about the many similarities and differences of the study and research of children’s friendships expectations, which were approached by Bigelow and La Gaipa (1975) and William Corsaro (2006). Firstly I will introduce both of the different approaches and methods and I will then later go into the results of their work. I will later go on to talk about the problems with some of the methods and what could have been changed to solve these and lastly the similarities and differences between them both.

Bigelow and La Gaipa in 1975 approached a study on children’s friendships; they started the study in the 1970 when very little was known on children’s friendship and the aspects of ‘friendships’. Their main studies was to look at the differences in children’s understanding of friendship at various stages of development and how the children’s interpretation of friendship changes as they get older. In the Experiment itself they asked thirty girls and thirty boys from eight different schools, between the ages of six and fourteen to think about their best friend of the same sex.

They were then told to write an essay on what they expected of their best friend and how it differs from expectations of other friends. Bigelow and La Gaipa sampled a study of four hundred and eighty essays. Before the study and research took place Bigelow and La Gaipa wrote a list of different characteristics of a best friend of which they believed the children may include in their essays, they created a list of twenty one difference categories of friendship expectations.

For the results of this method they took all four hundred and eighty essays and compared them against their list of twenty one categories of friendship expectations, this was to count how many times each expectation was mentioned, this is usually referred to as a frequency count. Once they counted each expectation and the occurrences had been noted they could use the frequency count to look for patterns that could give them an insight into children’s friendships expectations and the changing nature of it. Bigelow and La Gaipa found some differences in the expectations of a best friend in different ages and how gender differs too.

Sixteen of the twenty one categories were noted more frequent in the elder children’s essays compared to the younger, it is said that ‘’expectations of a best friend become increasingly complex and sophisticated as children get older’’. Bigelow and La Gaipa all came up with three different stages of development of children’s expectations in friendship: First stage- is based on shared activities, so when you’re a lot younger and your parents take you for meetings with other children to start the development of friendships.

Second stage – this change is different from the first stage as the friendships are more emphasized on sharing, loyalty and commitment. Third stage – this stage is based more on growing up and the importance of similarity in attitudes, values and the potential of a more intimate friendship The problem with Bigelow and La Gaipa’s approach was that younger children lack the use of skills and higher education such as verbal and writing skills, older children may be a lot better with words and may be more descriptive, whereas the younger children will keep there’s more simple and basic.

Another problem with their approach was that Bigelow and La Gaipa created the list themselves of the friendship expectations, this could be seen as unfair because what they wrote down could be their own expectations and not a varied supply of words for everyone’s views on friendship expectations. To change this they could have asked another variety of people on their first thoughts on what is a best friend and used a mixed variety of ideas.

William Corsaro was more interested in how children spoke to each other and that research on children’s friendships should focus more on their understanding of the word. William Corsaro wanted to explore more into how friendship changes and is meant in different places and different times, he wanted to look more into the communication of children with each other rather than have an interviewer. He made notes on the different activities of children and their interactions with each other, whilst video recording them, this is an example of an ethnographic approach.

An ethnographic approach can be seen as better when it used with younger children which may not be good with words like elder children, also this way he could get a first-hand account of the Childs experiences. Corsaro had to find a way of blending in with the social groups without seeming inconspicuous, he believed that a way which has worked well in the past is observing and watching from a distant and waiting to be approached by children, for them to then invite you into the social group.

He firstly observed a group of children of the age of three years old playing in a box and discovered in order to gain access to be invited to play together you need to already be friends or become friends. He then observed to three year old girls, Jenny and Betty and discovered that they became concerned about one another when one disappeared to play with someone else, Betty also reassures Jenny that they are still best friends.

William Corsaro’s last observation slightly contradicts Bigelow and La Gaipa’s idea of showing concern of each other comes as you get older, whereas Corsaro comes across the two girls whom at the age of three become concerned for one another. This may be due to the different approaches they both took in their research, Corsaro’s approach was more about translating the children’s words whereas Bigelow and La Gaipa’s at the end came down to translating the children’s essays into numbers. They both started off by using more qualitative data but later Bigelow and La Gaipa altered theirs to quantitative.

The problems with Corsaro’s approach is that he didn’t vary his ideas enough and kept them to a small, minimum age range and didn’t vary the different situations, although his idea was to see the understanding of children’s idea on ‘friends’, if he had mixed situations and ages Corsaro may have had a very different result to what he got. I think it would have made his experiment more interesting if he had varied genders and the amount of children and also seen how boy and girl friends interact with one another.

By looking at both studies there is an obvious similarity and this is that they both were interested in the research and study of children’s friendships. Another similarity in both these approaches of children’s friendship is that the children had free will to do or write what they wanted, Bigelow and La Gaipa just told them to write what they looked for in a best friend and William Corsaro allowed the children to play where they wanted and allowed them to introduce him into their social group rather than approaching it himself which may have altered the results for his study.

From my point of view there are a lot more differences comparing both the approaches, to start with although they were both looking into children’s friendships, William Corsaro was more interested in the children’s individual understanding of the word ‘friend’ and how place and time affect this, in contrast Bigelow and La Gaipa wanted to know a range of ideas of what children expect of their ‘best friend’. They also used different methods Corsaro used an ethnographic approach unlike Bigelow and La Gaipa which used a written quantitative research method.

To conclude this essay I believe that the differences overrule over similarities with Bigelow and La Gaipa’s compared to William Corsaro’s approach. They both make valid points in their methods, studies and especially their results, but both results contradict one another, by one saying as you get older friendships become more complex and you become more concerned for friends, where on the other hand the other goes on to show that from a young age of three a couple of young girls show concern for each other, which opens the question of every child differs from each other.

Bigelow and La Gaipa had a good idea of method by sampling a wide number and varied the ages and areas the children were from, whereas William Corsaro only observed a small amount of children which doesn’t open his sampling studies as he was then restricted to what he had. I believe that William Corsaro had the better method overall though by actually observing how children interact and by seeing it all himself from his own eyes, children’s views on each other can differ all the time, even days when they’re a lot younger.

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