Scientists Find That Assigning Seats in a Classroom Helps Children Develop Friendships

A study done at the University of Leipzig in Germany shows that assigning seats in the classroom can help children build friendships with classmates different from them. Students who sit near each other can become friends despite their educational achievements, ethnicity, and gender. The researchers add that growing close to the people you see every day is typical.

The researchers also found that most people make friends with others who share their interests or background.

Seating charts helped the students develop friendships

The researchers gathered 2,966 students from 40 different schools in Hungary. They made a randomized seating chart for the students who were between grades 3 and 6. Students were seated using the chart for one semester. They later reported their new friendships to researchers.

Results showed that sitting next to someone increased the chance of becoming friends from 15%- 22%. This finding remained true even when they accounted for the children’s educational achievement, ethnicity, and gender background.

According to Felix Elwert, a senior study author, while friendships can benefit an individual’s health, they also contribute to division. The division is because people generally become friends with others who are similar to them. However, interventions such as a seating chart for children can help people make even more diverse friendships.

People often make friends with those from similar backgrounds

The researchers also noticed that friendships among similar students increased more compared to those who were different. The difference was because those with similar backgrounds and interests begin closer companionship as they already have things in common.

Tamas Keller, another study author, adds that while teachers have control over the seating chart, many overlook its role in forming friendships. The researchers found that the most significant barriers to developing friendships were ethnicity and gender. Most early adolescent students tended to make friends with others of the same gender and might not change their preferences with a seating arrangement. Inter-ethnic friendships were even harder to establish. Other strategies might be needed to help students make friends different from them and thus reduce division. Making friends from different backgrounds could help students grow and learn to tolerate people different from them.

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