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Friendship is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum. The study of friendship is included in the fields of sociology, social psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and zoology. Various academic theories of friendship have been proposed, among which are social exchange theory, equity theory, relational dialectics, and attachment styles.

Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:

  • The tendency to desire what is best for the other
  • Sympathy and empathy
  • Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one's counterpart
  • Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
  • Enjoyment of each other's company
  • Trust in one another
  • Positive reciprocity — a relationship is based on equal give-and-take between the two parties.
  • The ability to be oneself, express one's feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgement.


Cultural variations


File:Friendship 2.jpg
Holding hands is a sign of friendship in most cultures.

Ancient Greece

Template:Inappropriate tone Friendship was a topic of moral philosophy much discussed by Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, but less so in the modern era, until the re-emergence of contextualist and feminist approaches to ethics.Template:Cn In friendship, an "openness" of each to the other is found that can be seen as an enlargement of the self. Aristotle writes that "the excellent person is related to his friend in the same way as he is related to himself, since a friend is another self; and therefore, just as his own being is choiceworthy him, the friend's being is choice-worthy for him in the same or a similar way."Template:Pn In Ancient Greek, friend and lover are the same word.[1]

Friendship therefore opens the door to an escape from egoism or belief that the rational course of action is always to pursue one's own self-interest, although escaping through the door would require finding what is covered by Aristotle's "same or similar way". It is notable that friendship requires sentiments to which Kant denies moral importance. It is a purely personal matter, requiring virtue, yet which runs counter to the universalistic requirement of impartial treatment of all, for a friend is someone who is treated differently from others. One problem is to reconcile these apparently conflicting requirements.


Germans typically have very few friends, however friendships that do develop will normally last a lifetime, as loyalty is held in high regard in Germany. Friends in Germany are expected to help each other in every possible sense. Germans may appear aloof to people from other countries, as they tend to be cautious and keep their distance when it comes to meeting new people, which explains ongoing intercultural differences with people from English-speaking countries. Additionally, friends use the informal personal pronoun "du", which is otherwise only used for family members, as well as their respective first names. The development from becoming an acquaintance to a friend can take several months.


In Russia, one typically accords very few people the status of "friend". These friendships, however, make up in intensity what they lack in number.Template:Citation needed Friends are entitled to call each other by their first names alone and to use diminutives. A norm of polite behavior is addressing "acquaintances" by full first name plus patronymic.[2] These could include relationships that elsewhere would be qualified as real friendships, such as workplace relationships of long standing, or neighbors with whom one shares an occasional meal or a customary drink.


In the Middle East and Central Asia, male friendships, while less restricted than in Russia, tend also to be reserved and respectable in nature. They may use nicknames and diminutive forms of their first names. It is believed that in some parts of the Middle East, friendship is a form of respect, not born out of fear or superiority. Friends are people who are equal in most standards but still respect each other irrespective of their attributes or shortcomings.

Decline of friendships in the U.S.

File:Tying friendship bracelet.jpg
The friendship bracelet is an American example of the exchange of small tokens of friendship.

According to a study documented in the June 2006 issue of the journal American Sociological Review, Americans are thought to be suffering a loss in the quality and quantity of close friendships since at least 1985.[3][4] The study states that 25% of Americans have no close confidants and that the average total number of confidants per citizen has dropped from four to two.

According to the study:

  • Americans' dependence on family as a safety net went up from 57% to 80%.
  • Americans' dependence on a partner or spouse went up from 5% to 9%.
  • Research has found a link between fewer friendships (especially in quality) and psychological regression.

In recent times, it is postulated that modern American friendships have lost the force and importance they had in antiquity. C.S. Lewis, for example, in his The Four Loves, writes:

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few 'friends'. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceships which those who make it would describe as 'friendships', show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that Philía which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book.[5]

Developmental issues

In the sequence of the emotional development of the individual, friendships come after parental bonding and before the pair bonding engaged in at the approach of maturity. In the intervening period between the end of early childhood and the onset of full adulthood, friendships are often the most important relationships in the emotional life of the adolescent and are often more intense than relationships later in life.[6] However, making friends seems to trouble a lot of people; having no friends can be emotionally damaging in some cases.[7]

A study by researchers from Purdue University found that post-secondary-education friendships (e.g., college, university) last longer than the friendships before it.[8]

Children with autistic spectrum disorders such as Asperger's Syndrome and autism usually have some difficulty forming friendships. This is due to the autistic nature of some of their symptoms, which include, but are not limited to, preferring routine actions to change, obsessive interests and rituals, and usually lacking good social skills. This does not mean that they are not able to form friendships, however. With time, moderation, and proper instruction, they are able to form friendships after realizing their own strengths and weaknesses. Children with ADHD may not have difficulty forming friendships, but they may have a hard time keeping friendships because of impulsive behavior and hyperactivity. Children with inattentive ADD may not have as much trouble keeping and maintaining friendships, but inattentiveness may make it more difficult.

Friendship development through childhood

In a 1974 study,[9] Bigelow and La Gaipa, in one of the first studies conducted regarding children's friendships, found that expectations of a best friend become increasingly complex as a child gets older. The study investigated the criteria for "best friend" in a sample of 480 children between the ages of six and fourteen years of age.

Their findings highlighted three stages of the development of friendship expectations.

  • First stage: emphasised shared activities and the importance of geographical closeness.
  • Second stage: emphasised sharing, loyalty and commitment.
  • Third stage: revealed growing importance of similar attitudes, values and interests.

Types of friendships

Associate: not a true friend—sharing of emotional ties is absent. An example would be a coworker with whom one enjoys eating lunch or having coffee, but would not look to for emotional support. Many "friends" that appear on social networking sites are generally associates in real life.

Best friend (or close friend): A person someone shares extremely strong interpersonal ties with as a friend.

BFF ("Best friends forever"): Slang used primarily in the USA by teenage and young adult women to describe a female friend close friend.

Blood brother or blood sister: Either people related by birth, or a circle of friends who swear loyalty by mingling the blood of each member together though, not recommended for risk of blood disease such as HIV.

Boston marriage: An antiquated American term used during the 19th and 20th centuries to denote two women who lived together in the same household independent of male support. Relationships were not necessarily sexual. It was used to quell fears of lesbians after World War I.

Bro or Bruh: Slang used primarily in the USA, Australia and New Zealand by teenage and young adult men to describe a male friend close friend. This term is currently used to describe the modern generation of college-age male party goers. The name is typically associated with attention-seeking males who like to get drunk and party constantly. A bro is someone whom one identifies with on a deeper level. While partying might influence one's bros, true bros stick by each other through thick and thin. While one male might call another a bro, the true bro is a person who is the male's brother, a friend so close, that blood relations do not matter.

Sis: Also slang used primarily in the USA like bro, but for women and girls.

Buddy: In the USA, males and sometimes females often refer to each other as "buddies", for example, introducing a male friend as their "buddy", or a circle of male friends as "buddies". Buddies are also acquaintances that one has during certain events. The term may also refer to an online contact, such as the AOL Buddy List. It is also referred to a close friend.

Casual relationship or "friends with benefits": A sexual or near-sexual and emotional relationship between two people who do not expect or demand to share a formal romantic relationship. This can also refer to a "hook-up".

Family friend: A friendship extended to family members of the friends. Close relation is developed in those societies where family setup is strong. This term is usually used in the Indian subcontinent.

Comrade: Means "ally", "friend", or "colleague" in a military or political connotation. This is the feeling of affinity that draws people together in time of war or when people have a mutual enemy or even a common goal. Friendship can be mistaken for comradeship. Former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges wrote: Template:Quote As a war ends, or a common enemy recedes, many comrades return to being strangers who lack friendship and have little in common. Sometimes they even become enemies in another war.

Cross-sex friendship: A person having a friend of the opposite sex with having little or no sexual or romantic activity: a male who has a female friend, or a female who has a male friend. Historically, cross-sex friendships have been rare. This is because often men would labor in order to support themselves and their family, while women stayed at home and took care of the housework and children. The lack of contact led to men forming friendships exclusively with their colleagues and women forming friendships with other stay-at-home mothers. However, as women attended schools more and as their presence in the workplace increased, the segregated friendship dynamic was altered, and cross-sex friendships began to increase. Cross-sex friendship has once been a sign of gender deviance, but now it has been loosened because of the increase of gender equality in schools and the workplace, along with certain interests and pastimes such as sports.

However, cross-sex friendships are not always a socially accepted norm of amity, and some of those friendships could develop into romantic feelings (see romantic friendship). However, when these feelings are not mutual, they can often backfire, making it hard for the two to remain friends.

Frenemy: A portmanteau of the words fr(iend) and enemy, the term frenemy refers to someone who pretends to be a friend but actually is an enemy—a proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing in the world of friendships. This is also known as a love–hate relationship. Most people have encountered a frenemy at one time or another in the same places one might find friends—school, work, the neighborhood. The term frenemy was reportedly coined by a sister of author and journalist Jessica Mitford in 1977 and popularized more than twenty years later on the third season of Sex and the City. While most research on friendship and health has focused on the positive relationship between the two, a frenemy is a potential source of irritation and stress. One study by psychologist Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that unpredictable love–hate relationships characterized by ambivalence can lead to elevations in blood pressure. In a previous study, the same researcher found that blood pressure is higher around friends for whom one has mixed feelings than it is people whom one clearly dislikes.[10]

Fruit fly,[11] fag hag (female),[12] or fag stag (male)[13]: denotes a person (usually heterosexual) who forms deep ties or close friendships with gay men. Men (gay or straight) who have lesbian friends have been referred to as "lezbros" or "lesbros".[14] The term has often been claimed by these straight members in gay-straight friendships; however, some feel that it is derogatory.[15][16]

Imaginary friend: a non-physical friend created by a child or even an adult. Sometimes they are human; other times, they are animals, such as the life-size rabbit in the 1950 Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey. Imaginary friends are also created for people desperate for social interaction but are isolated from contact with humans and pets. It may be seen as bad behavior or even taboo (some religious parents even consider their child to be possessed by an evil "spirit"), but is most commonly regarded as harmless, typical childhood behavior. The friend may or may not be human and commonly serves a protective purpose.

Internet relationship: a form of friendship or romance which takes place over the Internet. Some internet friendships evolve into real-life friendships. Internet friendships are in similar context to pen pals. These friendships are also based on the thought that the other person that they may not have ever met in real life knows them for who they are instead of the mask they may use in real life.

Mate: In the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, blokes often refer to each other as "mates", for example, introducing a male friend as their "mate", or a circle of male friends as "mates". In the UK, as well as Australia, this term has begun to be taken up by women as well as men.

Open relationship: a relationship, usually between two people, that agree each partner is free to have sexual intercourse with others outside the relationship. When this agreement is made between a married couple, it is called an "open marriage".

Communal friendship: a friendship in which the friends gather often to provide encouragement and emotional support in times of great need. This type of friendship tends to last only when opposing parties fulfill the expectations of support for the relationship.[17]

Agentic friendship: a friendship in which both parties look toward each other for help in achieving practical goals in their personal and professional life.[18] These friends help with completing projects, study for an exam, or help a friend move out. These types of friends value sharing time together, but only if there are no other priorities and the friend is actually available to help in the first place. Emotions and sharing of personal information is of no concern to this friend type.

Pen pal: people who have a relationship via postal correspondence. Now pen pals have been established into internet friendships with the use of chat or social networking sites. They may or may not have met each other in person and may share either love, friendship, or simply an association between each other. This type of correspondence was encouraged in many elementary school children; it was thought that an outside source of information or a different person's experience would help the child become more worldly.

Friendship and health

The conventional wisdom is that good friendships enhance an individual's sense of happiness and overall well-being, but a number of solid studies support the notion that strong social supports improve a woman's prospects for good health and longevity. Conversely, it has been shown that loneliness and lack of social supports are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, viral infections, and cancer as well as higher mortality rates. Two female researchers have even termed friendship networks a "behavioral vaccine" that protects both physical and mental health.[19]

While there is an impressive body of research linking friendship and health status, the precise reasons for this connection are still far from clear. Most of the studies are large prospective studies (that follow people over a period of time), and while there may be a correlation between the two variables (friendship and health status), researchers still do not know if there is a cause-and-effect relationship, i.e., that good friendships actually improve health.

There are a number of theories that attempt to explain the link, including: 1) Good friends encourage their friends to lead more healthy lifestyles; 2) Good friends encourage their friends to seek help and access services when needed; 3) Good friends enhance their friends' coping skills in dealing with illness and other health problems; and/or 4) Good friends actually affect physiological pathways that are protective of health.[20]

Pure love

Template:See also Love is closely related to friendship in that it involves strong interpersonal ties between two or more people. Being in a relationship with someone usually means that they are very close and can confide in each other.

In terms of interpersonal relationships, there are two distinct types of love:

  1. Platonic love: is a deep and non-romantic connection or friendship between two individuals. It is love in which the sexual element does not enter.
  2. Romantic love: considered similar to platonic love, but involves sexual elements.

Engaging in a romantic relationship can change the dynamics of a platonic relationship; in the event of a breakup, close friends who become romantically involved may experience difficulty in successfully resuming a comfortable friendship.

Non-personal friendships

Although the term initially described relations between individuals, it is at times used for political purposes to describe relations between states or peoples (the "Franco–German friendship", for example), indicating in this case an affinity or mutuality of purpose between the two nations.

Regarding this aspect of international relations, Lord Palmerston said: Template:Cquote

This is often paraphrased as: "Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests."

The word friendship can be used in political speeches as an emotive modifier. Friendship in international relationships often refers to the quality of historical, existing, or anticipated bilateral relationships.

Interspecies and animal friendship

Template:See also Friendship as a type of interpersonal relationship is also found among animals of higher intelligence, such as the higher mammals and some birds. Cross-species friendships are common between humans and domestic animals. Less common but noteworthy are friendships between an animal and another animal of a different species, such as a dog and cat.

See also




Further reading

External links

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