Friendship was one of the first aspects of children’s peer relations that early researchers chose to investigate. The impetus for initial investigations appears to have been a desire to understand the origins of friendship, and investigators chose to address this question by researching factors that might guide children’s and adolescent’s friendship selection. Monroe (1898), for example, asked 2,336 children between the ages of 7 and 16 to write an essay in response to the question “What kind of a chum do you like the best?”, then tabulated the frequency with which respondents mentioned the following six types of attributes in their papers: “age, sex, size, physical traits, habits, mental and moral traits” (p. 68). 
The findings suggested that most children wanted friends who were kind and agreeable, and of the same age, sex, and size. Expanding on this methodology, Bonser (1902) had 2,035 adolescents (12- to 22-year-olds) write compositions in which they were to provide several types of information about an “intimate” friendship, including age of onset, causes or precipitating factors, time spent with the friend, and similarity–differences in interests and dispositions. Based on frequency counts of respondent’s replies, Bonser concluded that friendships began as early as infancy and, in young children, grew out of chance associations. 

Older children and adolescents, he inferred, were more likely to form friendships “for sympathy, for closer companionship, and for mutual confidence” (p. 226). Other conclusions were that adolescents tended to be friends with persons of the same age and gender, saw their friends regularly, and formed lasting relationships. It is important to note that in these earliest of studies, researchers did not define “friendship” precisely but equated it with concepts such as “chum,” “the intimate friendships of childhood and youth,” and one’s closest or constant “companions” (Monroe, 1898; Bonser, 1902). 
Little in these early writings suggests that researchers wrestled with the definition of “friendship” or deliberated over the validity of specific empirical indicators. Apparently, early researchers spared themselves these travails. Rather than proposing relatively objective, empirical indicators of friendship and gathering data on these indicators, investigators assumed that children’s verbal reports were veridical and could be used to identify and gather information about their friendships. This approach to the study of friendships introduced by Monroe and Bonser was utilized by subsequent investigators until the late 1920s and early 1930s (e.g., Jenkins, 1931; Warner, 1923), making it the principal way that friendships were defined and studied during the early 1900s. 
It was during the early 1930s that investigators began to question whether friendships could be reliably identified and studied using only self-report data from children. At the heart of this travail was the concern that prior researchers had investigated children’s and youth’s friendships without looking at “actual” friendships. Hagman (1933), for example, criticized the way children’s friendships had been studied by noting that investigators had “gone no further than the subject’s verbally expressed choices to determine who [their] friends were,” and that there had been no attempt “to correlate verbally expressed preferences with actual choices in work and play situations” (pp. 10–11). Similarly, Green (1933) argued that investigators had attempted to understand friendships by gathering data from children who were assumed to have friends, without actually examining their relationships or the types of social exchanges that occurred in these relationships. A related concern was that the findings assembled on the origins and selection of friendships were invalid, because children and youth lacked an awareness of the “real reasons” for their friendship choices (see Challman, 1932, p. 146). 
The solution or innovation that was proposed for this travail was to “determine which children really associate with each other” (Hagman, 1933; p. 12) and to develop empirical indicators of companionship or friendship (see Challman, 1932; Hagman, 1933). Hagman, in particular, argued that these objectives could best be achieved with newly developed observational techniques, such as those developed by Wellman (1926), Hubbard (1929) and Challman (1932). Wellman (1926), for example, created an “objective method . . . for determining who were close friends within the school situation” (p. 126) and used it to identify friendships in a sample of 113 seventh, eighth, and ninth graders. 
Daily observations were conducted in school settings over a 5-month period, and pairs of children who were “seen together” most often were considered “friends.” Unfortunately, the criterion used to determine when particular pairs of children had been “seen together” was not explicated. Similarly, Challman (1932) observed 33 preschoolers in a nursery school setting and noted the number of times that children were in the presence of each of their classmates. Estimates were made of the “strength” of friendships by dividing the number of times a pair of children had been seen together by the amount of time both members had been present in the classroom. Thus, pairs of children who were often observed together were considered to be “stronger” friends than pairs who were seldom in each other’s company.

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