Jealousy encompasses the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur when a person believes a valued relationship is being threatened. Jealousy usually involves anger and possessiveness, and can negatively affect social skills in children.
We all feel jealousy from time to time; it is a normal human emotion. It’s when jealous feelings are not kept in check that they become destructive and affect a child’s social skills. Regardless of whether a relationship is platonic or intimate, when one person in the relationship experiences jealousy, it is a signal that something in the relationship needs to be fixed, and that requires social skills and a tactful approach.
Children engage in complex social systems in which their peers play diverse roles. Some friendships within the social network may be close and intimate while others are merely acquaintances. A teammate is a buddy on the field, but not off. A lunch mate is sought after in the cafeteria, but never phoned outside of school. A child will inevitably feel closer to one friend in the social group than they do to another. These complicated peer networks function well when all the kids are in agreement about one other’s roles. However, when they are not in agreement, problems arise.
In general, girls are more prone to jealousy in friendships, because they have higher expectations for loyalty, commitment, and empathy from their friends than boys do. It is also more socially acceptable for boys to express jealousy within their intimate relationships. Among boys, jealousy is often seen as a masculine expression of love rather than a sign of insecurity and low self-esteem. This thinking can have a negative impact on their social skill development.
Most children can handle the frustrations associated with sharing friends. But there are some children who have enormous difficulties navigating these waters. Children who are lonely, have little social skills or have low self-esteem often do not have the skills to handle the risks associated with sharing friends with others. They are the most prone to feeling threatened and vulnerable in their relationships with peers.
Click “social skills and jealousy” to learn more to help your child deal with jealousy.