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10: Friendship Relationships

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    When you hear the words “friend” or “friendship,” what comes to mind? In today’s society, the words “friend” and “friendship” can refer to a wide range of different relationships or attachments. We can be a friend of a library, museum, opera, theatre, etc. We can be a friend to someone in need. We can friend thousands of people on social media platforms like Facebook. We can develop friendships with people in our day-to-day lives at work, in social groups, at school, at church, etc. Some people see their parents/guardians, spouses, and siblings as “friends.” Many of us even have one or more best friends. So, when we look at all of these different areas where we use the word “friend,” do we mean the same thing? In this chapter, we’re going to delve into the world of interpersonal friendships, which at least takes a few items off of our list of friendships (e.g., libraries, museums, operas), but we’re still left with a term that is very difficult to define.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Interpersonal Communication

    Beverley Fehr was one of the first scholars to note the problem related to defining the term “friendship”: “Everyone knows what friendship is – until asked to define it. There are virtually as many definitions of friendship as there are social scientists studying the topic.”1 Table 10.0.1 presents some sample definitions that exist in the literature for the terms “friend” or “friendship.”

    Table 10.0.1 Defining Friendship
    Anthropologica “A friendship-like relationship is a social relationship in which partners provide support according to their abilities in times of need, and in which this behavior is motivated in part by positive affect between partners.”2
    Clinical Psychology “[S]omeone who likes and wishes to do well for someone else and who believes that these feelings and good intentions are reciprocated by the other party.”3
    Dictionary “The emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.”4
    Evolutionary “Friendship is a long-term, positive relationship that involves cooperation.”5,6
    Friendship as Love “The etymology of word friend connects its meaning with love, freedom and choice, suggesting an ideal definition of friendship as a voluntary relationship that includes a mutual and equal emotional bond, mutual and equal care and goodwill, as well as pleasure.”7
    Legal “Friendship is a word of broad and varied application. It is commonly used to describe the undefinable relationships which exist not only between those connected by ties of kinship or marriage, but as well between strangers in blood, and which vary in degree from the greatest intimacy to an acquaintance more or less casual.”8
    Personality “[V]oluntary, mutual, flexible, and terminable; relationships that emphasize equality and reciprocity, and require from each partner an affective involvement in the total personality of the other.”9
    Philosophy “[A] distinctively personal relationship that is grounded in a concern on the part of each friend for the welfare of the other, for the other’s sake, and that involves some degree of intimacy.”10
    Social Psychology “[V]oluntary or unrestrained interaction in which the participants respond to one another personally, that is, as unique individuals rather than as packages of discrete attributes or mere role occupants.”11

    As you can see, there are several different ways that scholars can define the term “friendship.” So, we must question whether defining the term “friendship” is the best way to start a discussion of this topic.

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    This page titled 10: Friendship Relationships is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jason S. Wrench, Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter & Katherine S. Thweatt (OpenSUNY) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.