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Kids' friendships sometimes illusory

Surprisingly often, grade-schoolers say they're tight with a peer who actually dislikes them

In the brutal social world of elementary school, friendship can be deceptive. It’s relatively common for children to consider as a friend a classmate who admits disliking them but seems affable on the surface, researchers say.

“The common prevalence of unbalanced relationships, where children believe themselves to be friends with someone who actually dislikes them, is surprising,” says James Olsen, a psychologist at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

Unbalanced relationships of this sort comprised 12 percent of third to sixth graders’ classroom relationships in a university-affiliated elementary school, Olsen and his colleagues report in a paper published online January 13 in Personal Relationships. That figure exceeded the nearly 10 percent of kids’ relationships in which each child dislikes the other.

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