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Study: Link between small classes and friendships

When it comes to making friends in high school, the classes a student chooses seem to set the course, a new study finds.

Analyzing data from about 3,000 students at 78 U.S. high schools, researchers found that teens were more likely to make friends in small classes. Non-mandatory electives distinguished these students from a school's general population.

Friendships were more likely to develop in Latin or wood shop class than in a physical education class that all students were required to take, the study found.

Students who take the same set of courses tend to get to know each other well and may focus less on social status, such as whether a person is considered cool or not. They were also less likely to judge classmates on traits such as race and gender, the researchers pointed out.

They also found that girls were more likely to take demanding math classes if other girls in their shared set of courses took advanced math, according to the study published recently in the American Journal of Sociology.

"People generally want to think that kids are choosing their friends from the well-known categories like jocks and nerds -- that it's like 'The Breakfast Club' and the same at every school," study author Kenneth Frank, a professor in Michigan State University's College of Education, said.

"But our argument is that the opportunities an adolescent has to choose friends are guided by the courses the adolescent takes and the other students who take the courses with them," he noted.

Schools should offer classes with a thought to bringing high- and low-achieving students together, Frank said. Otherwise, there is the risk of driving them apart, socially and academically. -- HealthDay

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