It’s a common perception portrayed in movies from The Breakfast Club to Mean Girls.

Teenage friendships are formed by joining cliques such as jocks, geeks and goths. That's the perception at least.

But a national study led by a Michigan State University scholar finds that the courses students take have powerful effects on the friendships they make.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The findings, published in the American Journal of Sociology, indicate the pattern of course-taking is distinctive to each high school.

In one school, for example, friendships may form among students taking woodshop, Spanish and European history, while in another it may be among students taking agricultural business management, advanced accounting and calculus.

MSU's Kenneth Frank says 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.

But he says their 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.

Also students were more likely to make friends in small classes, often electives, which set them off from the general student population.

Friendships were more likely to be created in Latin 4 and woodshop, for example, than in a large physical education class that is required of everyone in a particular grade.