Friendship is a “voluntary, personal relationship, typically providing intimacy and assistance, in which the two parties like one another and seek each other’s company,” (Fehr, 1996).



Without friendship life is not worth living.  Cicero

Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.   Woodrow Wilson

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.  Anais Nin

A friend in need is a friend to be avoided. Anonymous

I don’t trust him.  We’re friends.  Bertolt Brecht


The Nature of Friendships

      Researchers have tried to delineate the properties of friendship.

      Davis & Todd (1985) identified 15 to 20 typical features of friendships

      Sapadin (1988) found 8 categories indicating a friend is:

    Someone with whom we are intimate

    Whom we trust

    On whom we can depend

    Who shares

    Who is accepting

    Who is caring

    With whom we are close

    Whom we enjoy



      de Vries (1996) came up with 3 general aspects of friendship:

   Affective elements

   Personal thoughts and feelings, self-disclosure, intimacy, appreciation, and affection.  Provide encouragement, emotional support, empathy, bolstering of self-concept, with an underlying sense of trust, loyalty, and commitment.

   Communal elements

   Participating in common activities, similarity, giving and receiving assistance of a nonaffective nature,

   Sociable elements

   Friends as sources of amusement, fun, and recreation.




Attributes of Friendships

      Friendships can be differentiated from romantic relationships.

   Love involves more complex feelings than friendship.

   Love relationships involve stricter standards of conduct.

   Friends tend to spend less time with one another than lovers do.

   Friendships typically include less obligations and are less emotionally intense than romantic relationships are.

The Rules of Friendship

      Rules of friendship are the shared beliefs among individuals in a culture about which behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate in friendships.

      Through our interactions with others beginning in infancy, we learn about particular rules of friendship.

      As a result, children’s comprehension and expression of friendship rules change as they mature (Bigelow, Tesson, & Lewko, 1996).

The Rules of Friendship

      Argyle & Henderson (1984) found that different cultures endorse different rules of friendship.

      People do not always follow rules.

   It is estimated that about 50% of people follow friendship rules (Gambrill, Florian, & Thomas, 1999).


The Rules of Friendship

      Volunteer help in time of need.

      Respect the friend’s privacy.

      Keep confidences.

      Trust and confide in each other.

      Stand up for the other person in their absence.

      Don’t criticize each other in public.

      Show emotional support.

      Look him/her in the eye during conversation.

      Strive to make him/her happy while in each other’s company.


      Don’t be jealous or critical of each other’s relationships.

      Be tolerant of each other’s friends.

      Share news of success with each other.

      Ask for personal advice.

      Don’t nag.

      Engage in joking or teasing with the friend.

      Seek to repay debts and favors and compliments.

      Disclose personal feelings or problems to the friend.

Friendship Across the Life Cycle

     Various types of friendships exist and friendships differ depending on social context, degree of closeness and age and sex of the participants.




      From birth, humans seem to be social animals, although peer relationships are limited in infancy and young childhood.

      By two years of age, children display parallel play, that is, they play next to each other, yet do not interact (Barnes, 1971).

      Friendships may emerge during the toddler age period, although these early friendships are less complex than later friendships.

Selman’s Cognitive Model

      Selman and colleagues identified five successive stages in how children view friendships

    Momentary playmate- proximity defines friendship and friends are valued for their possessions.

    One-way assistance- children are able to discriminate between their own views and wishes and those of their friends.

    Fairweather cooperation- children now begin to have a self-reflective and reciprocal perspective

    Intimate-mutual sharing- children and adolescents can take an objective perspective of the friendship.

    Autonomous interdependence- more complex friendships emerge; adolescents and adults realize their friends need other independent relationships.

Buhrmester and Furman’s Socioemotional Model of Friendship Development

      According to Buhrmester and Furman (1986), children develop different interpersonal needs as they grow older.

      These needs are tenderness, companionship, acceptance, intimacy and sexuality.

      Each stage of development is characterized by particular abilities that influence the way children resolve each stage in order to meet their interpersonal needs.

Buhrmester and Furman’s Socioemotional Model of Friendship Development

      Juvenile Era- children enter elementary school and begin to value the companionship and acceptance of other children.

      Children learn about cooperation and compromise in contrast to competition and greed.

      Preadolescent Stage- children acquire a need for intimate exchange and learn that their hopes, preferences, and interests are of value and shared by others as well.

      Preadolescents at this stage usually have friends of their same age, background and interests.

      Full-blown friendships emerge during this stage and are characterized by intense closeness and self-disclosure. 


      Early Adolescent- sexuality blossoms during this stage and adolescents develop a sense of lust and interest in the opposite sex.

      Typically, it is difficult to establish sexual relationships in early adolescence and this can sometimes push adolescents into real or imagined sexual situations that may be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, shame or guilt.

      In late adolescence, however, people begin to fulfill their needs for intimacy and sexuality.

Childhood Peer Status and Later Well-Being

      Researchers have described three categories of children (Asher & Coie, 1990; Bukowski & Cillessen, 1998):

   Children who are popular

   Children who are neglected

   Children who are rejected



      Several studies have concluded that children with poor peer adjustment are at risk for problems later in life (Parker &Asher, 1987; Kupersmidt et al., 1990).

      More specifically, research has found that children who are rejected by their peers are at risk for dropping out of school, engaging in criminal behavior, and showing poor psychological adjustment.

The Growing Importance of Peers

      The amount of time spent with peers during the adolescent years increases significantly when compared with childhood.

      Larson et al. (1996) found that time spent with family members decreased from 35% to 14% from grade 5 to 12, respectively.

      Attachment researchers also found that adolescents shift their attachment figures from parents to peers and typically to romantic partners.


Friendships Within Cliques and Crowds

      Cliques are small groups of individuals who spend time together.

      Crowds refer to several cliques coming together or large numbers of individuals who share a specific reputation and who may or may not spend time together.

      As adolescents grow up, their peer groups are constantly changing and the number of other sex friendships increase gradually (Hartup, 1993).

Support, Conflict and Peer Influence in Adolescent Relationships

      Berndt (1996) has identified three main features of adolescent relationships:

    Support- related to intimacy, such as when friends have intimate emotional conversations and support each other through difficult times.

    Conflict- arguments, competition, and discussions are prevalent in adolescence, typically with parents, although this declines after mid-adolescence (Laursen, Coy, & Collins, 1998).

    Peer-pressure- reaches a peak at age 15 (Berndt, 1996) and influences the adolescent’s choice of clothing, academic performance, drinking behavior, smoking, sexual behavior, etc.

Young Adulthood

      Intimacy is a key component of relationships in young adulthood (Berndt, 1996; Erikson, 1950).

      The search for intimacy usually takes place when young adults start their college education.

      Young adults often adjust to new environments and social networks by making new friends while some old friendships deteriorate, particularly in the first year of college (Shaver, Furman & Buhrmester, 1985).

      Time spent with same-sex partners decreases while time spent with opposite-sex partners tends to increase during the twenties.

      In a study of 113 young adults, Reis, Lin, Bennet, & Nezlek (1993) found that most participants increased their levels of intimate relationships although this did not seem to include increased levels of satisfaction.


      Unfortunately, the research done on midlife friendships is more suggestive than conclusive.

      Two approaches to the question of what if anything is different or unique about midlife friendships are:

   Age differences

   Associations between adult-related roles or life events and friendships

Age Group Comparisons with Midlife Friendships

      Researchers have looked closely at three general components of friendships (Bliesner & Adams, 1992):

    Structure- including how much power or status each partner has, how similar they are, how much they like each other, and how they connected friendships with networks of relationships

    Process- how partners behave toward each other and the thoughts and feelings friends have during those interactions

    Phases- establishment, maintenance, and disseverment of friendships


      Results from studies of the structure, process, and phases of midlife friendships show that younger individuals (at least men) tend to be more concerned about personality factors as getting in the way of forming friendships, while older men tend to be concerned about lack of time for friends (Wall, Pickert, & Paradise (1984).

      Argyle & Henderson (1984) found that older individuals (aged 20 to 35) were concerned about respect for privacy and requests for personal advice as relating to the end of a friendship, as opposed to teens (aged 17 to 19) who were concerned about public criticism.

Life Event and Role Influences on Midlife Friendships

      Some of the major life events that take place during midlife include marriage, parenthood, and one’s own children departing from home.

      Fehr (1999) identified a pattern of dyadic withdrawal that affects most adults involved in romantic relationships

    Dyadic withdrawal occurs when people begin to spend more time with their romantic partners and less time with friends.

Married couples tend to shift their relationships from personal friends to family and friends they share with their spouses.

Old Age
The Extent of Sociability Among the Elderly

      There is evidence to support the claim that friendships decline in old age (Larson, 1990; Cartensen, Isaacowitz & Charles, 1999; Fischer & Oliker, 1983).

      However, not all older adults lose friends and circumstances such as employment, better health, and living in a community versus a nursing home are all related with having more friends in old age.

Perspectives on Levels of Sociability

      Some have proposed that a decline in friendships during old age is due to barriers that only older individuals have to overcome such as mandatory retirement, poor transportation, and poor health (Havinghurst, 1961).

      Others, however, argue that the notion of barriers does not account for loss of friendships since most older adults express much satisfaction with their social relationships (Lang & Cartensen, 1994).

      Proponents of the disengagement perspective states that decreases in activity levels is a normal part of aging and they do not see this phenomenon as having negative consequences (Cumming & Henry, 1961).

      A more recent perspective known as  socioemotional  selectivity theory holds that as people age their friendships do decline, however, they remain close with family members and intimate friends (Cartensen et al., 1999).

Friendships and Well-Being in Old Age

      Research has shown that while friendships (especially distant ones) do tend to decline in old age, close friendships do contribute to older adults by decreasing the risk of developing disabilities and increasing the probability of recovering from health problems (Mendes de Leon et al., 1999).

Gender Differences in Same-Sex Friendships

      Women’s friendships tend to involve emotional sharing, while men’s friendships involve more common activities (Fehr, 1996; Winstead, Derlega & Rose, 1997).

      Women’s friendships have been characterized as being “face-to-face,” and men’s as “side-by-side” (Wright, 1982).

      These findings, however, may be due to  cultural pressures and expectations.

Individual Differences in Friendships:
Need for Intimacy

      People who need high levels of intimacy tend to have friendships that involve high levels of self-disclosure, beliefs in the value of loyalty, and a desire to avoid separation (McAdams, 1985).

      The need for intimacy in friendships is linked to better long-term adjustment.


      People who are depressed have less friends and other “supportive social networks” (Gotlib & Whiffen, 1991).

      Feeling one is not socially competent, as in the case of depressed individuals, probably contributes to difficulties in establishing and maintaining friendships.