"It's cool to have a friend": A qualitative study of adolescent gorls with MMR, Mild Mental retardation, their thoughts, reflections and experiences regarding to friendships an relations to peers
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Friendships and relations to peers are important for the social, emotional and cognitive development (Hartup, 1992; Newcomb and Bagwell, 1996). In adolescence, friends and peers become more important, as learning to take control, making decisions and being independent from adults becomes more important than in earlier childhood (Vitaro et al, 2000; Grue, 1999). Children and adolescents that have disabilities or retardations and therefore have an atypical development, are challenged when it comes to friendships and relations to peers, as they in many ways appear to be different from their mainstream peers. In this study, five adolescent girls with MMR (Mild Mental Retardation) diagnoses are interviewed about their experiences, thoughts and reflections when it comes to friends and relations to peers. The results suggest that although they have many of the same hopes, wishes and expectations for friendships that are common for adolescents, they appear to be somewhat immature and stand out from their peers. They are therefore not included socially with their peers at school or in leisure activities, they experience different acts of ostracism and describe that they are lonely. Although they are struggling to interact with their peers, they all have friends and friendships that they describe as satisfying and positive. Some of these friendships are with other girls that appear to be on the same developmental level, but there are also friendships that seem to be more unbalanced and not reciprocal. The results here suggest that girls with MMR are challenged when it comes to relations to peers and friendships, but that they also experience positive relations, they have best-friends that they are satisfied with. It is also important to notice that they are very different from each other, although they have the same diagnosis.