Blame it on the films or the stereotypes surrounding it, girls are generally believed to form more close-knit groups as compared to boys. But a recent study debunks this and goes on to state the exact opposite. The study has deduced that boys generally have the same six friends over a period of six months while things are not this constant for girls. According to a report in BBC, studying these social mixing patterns will help to shed light on understanding the way infectious disease are contracted and then help in planning vaccinations accordingly.
Published in a scientific journal Plos One, the study was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and was partnered with the University of Cambridge. Complex mathematical models were used by the scientists to understand how a disease spreads in a group. Findings of the study will be helpful in ascertaining how contagious diseases spread and the measures that can be taken to restrict that.
Around 460 students from year seven across different UK secondary schools and from varied socioeconomic classes were asked to name six children they spent most of their time with, during January and June in the year 2015.
Showing boys are potentially more cliquey than girls, perhaps going against gender stereotypes, and that popular child remain popular over time, is an interesting social insight – but for mathematical modellers, this type of information is also extremely valuable. Understanding age-specific social mixing patterns is vital for studying outbreaks of infectious diseases like flu and measles, which can spread rapidly, particularly among children,” author of the study Dr Adam Kucharski said.
“Mathematical models that predict the spread of infectious diseases are now an essential part of public health decisions for the introduction of new vaccines,” he added.
“Kids are a very important part of looking at how diseases spread. Previous studies have only looked at how children mix over one day, so with this study we wanted to see how it changed over time. It would also be good to extend the study over a longer period to see how friendship groups changed over the years,” Dr Clare Wenham, another author of the study said.
“It has been observed that boys’ friendships are more stable and girls’ are more volatile. As a result, girls might feel more pressure to have ‘just in case’ friends in case they fall out with their best friend and they feel more social pressure to be friendly with people that aren’t really their friends than boys. All this leads to a larger, more changeable group,” Dr Terri Apter