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Friendship is the cooperative and supportive relationship between two or more people. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection, and respect along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis. Friends will welcome each other's company and exhibit loyalty towards each other, often to the point of altruism. Their tastes will usually be similar and may converge, and they will share enjoyable activities. They will also engage in mutually helping behavior, such as the exchange of advice and the sharing of hardship. A friend is someone who may often demonstrate reciprocating and reflective behaviors. Yet for some, the practical execution of friendship is little more than the trust that someone will not harm them.

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

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

Friendship in history

Friendship is considered one of the main human experiences, and has been sanctified by most major religions. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Babylonian poem that is among the earliest known literary works in history, chronicles in great depth the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The Greco-Roman had, as paramount examples, the friendship of Orestes and Pylades, and, in Virgil's Aeneid, the friendship of Euryalus and Nisus, and lastly Robert and Aimee. The Abrahamic faiths have the story of David and Jonathan. Friendship played an important role in German Romanticism. A good example for this is Schiller's Die Bürgschaft.

The Christian Gospels state that Jesus Christ declared, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."(John 15:13).

In philosophy, Aristotle is known for his discussion (in the Nicomachean Ethics) of philia, which is usually (somewhat misleadingly) translated as "friendship," and certainly includes friendship, though is a much broader concept.

Aristotle's conception of friendship conceived of three distinct categories or 'tiers' thereof. As Professor Bill Mullen (of Bard College) lectured: "first, there are your 'business partners,' those who benefit financially from their 'friends' (contemporary theorists and poets reject this definition (c.f. Paul Shepard, who dismisses this relationship as "worship of Mammon.")) second, there are your 'drinking buddies' – people you have fun with. And, third, people with whom you pursue virtue, or arete."

Friendship can be different depending on where the people come from, gender, and how strong the friendship is.

Cultural variations


Cicero had his own beliefs on friendship. Cicero believed that in order to have a true friendship with someone there must be all honesty and truth. If there isn’t, then this isn’t a true friendship. In that case, friends must be one hundred percent honest with each other and put one hundred percent of their trust in the other person. Cicero also believed that for people to be friends with another person, they must do things without the expectation that their friend will have to repay them. He also believes that if a friend is about to do something wrong, and something that goes against your morals, you shouldn’t compromise your morals. You must explain why what they are going to do is wrong, and help them to see what the right thing to do is, because Cicero believes that ignorance is the cause of evil. Finally the last thing that Cicero believed was that the reason that a friendship comes to an end is because one person in that friendship has become bad. (On Friendship, Cicero)


The relationship is constructed differently in different cultures. In Russiamarker, for example, one typically accords very few people the status of "friend". These friendships, however, make up in intensity what they lack in number. Friends are entitled to call each other by their first names alone, and to use diminutives. A norm of polite behaviour is addressing "acquaintances" by full first name plus patronymic. These could include relationships which elsewhere would be qualified as real friendships, such as workplace relationships of long standing, neighbors with whom one shares an occasional meal and visit, and so on. Physical contact between friends is expected, and friends, whether or not of the same sex, will embrace, sometimes kiss and walk in public with their arms around each other, or arm-in-arm, or hand-in-hand.


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 nick names and diminutive forms of their first names.

Modern west

In the Western world, intimate physical contact has been sexualized in the public mind over the last one hundred years and is considered almost taboo in friendship, especially between two males. However, stylized hugging or kissing may be considered acceptable, depending on the context (see, for example, the kiss the tramp gives the kid in The Kid). In Spainmarker and other Mediterraneanmarker countries, men may embrace each other in public and kiss each other on the cheek. This is not limited solely to older generations but rather is present throughout all generations. In young children throughout the modern Western world, friendship, usually of a homosocial nature, typically exhibits elements of a closeness and intimacy suppressed later in life in order to conform to societal standards.

Decline of friendships in the U.S.

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. The study states 25% of Americans have no close confidants, and 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 and physiological regression

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

Likewise, Paul Halsall claims that:

Mark McLelland, writing in the Western Buddhist Review under his Buddhist name of Dharmachari Jñanavira (Article), more directly points to homophobia being at the root of a modern decline in the western tradition of friendship.

Hence, in our cultural context where homosexual desire has for centuries been considered sinful, unnatural and a great evil, the experience of homoerotic desire can be very traumatic for some individuals and severely limit the potential for same-sex friendship. The Danish sociologist Henning Bech, for instance, writes of the anxiety which often accompanies developing intimacy between male friends:

Their opinion that fear of being, or being seen as, homosexual has killed off western man's ability to form close friendships with other men is shared by Japanese psychologist Doi Takeo, who claims that male friendships in American society are fraught with homosexual anxiety and thus homophobia is a limiting factor stopping men from establishing deep friendships with other men.

The suggestion that friendship contains an ineluctable element of erotic desire is not new, but has been advanced by students of friendship ever since the time of the ancient Greeks, where it comes up in the writings of Plato. More recently, the Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger claimed that:

Recent western scholarship in gender theory and feminism concurs, as reflected in the writings of Eve Sedgwick in her The Epistemology of the Closet, and Jonathan Dollimore in his Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault.

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. However making friends seems to trouble lots of people ; having no friends can be emotionally damaging in some cases . Sometimes going years without a single friend can lead to suicide , however, this affects men more than women. Friendships play a key role in suicidal thoughts of boys. A long time of friendship may also result in marriage; too much friendship is followed by a compromise .

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

Types of friendships

Some examples are as follows:

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

Acquaintance: a friend, but sharing of emotional ties isn't present. An example would be a coworker with whom you enjoy eating lunch, but would not look to for emotional support.

Soulmate: the name given to someone who is considered the ultimate, true, and eternal half of the other's soul, in which the two are now and forever meant to be together.

Pen pal: people who have a relationship via postal correspondence. They may or may not have met each other in person and may share either love, friendship, or simply an acquaintance between each other.

Internet friendship: a form of friendship or romance which takes place over the Internet.

Comrade: means "ally", "friend", or "colleague" in a military or (usually) left-wing 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:

As a war ends, or a common enemy recedes, many comrades return to being strangers, who lack friendship and have little in common.

Casual relationship or "Friends with benefits": the sexual or near-sexual and emotional relationship between two people who don't expect or demand to share a formal romantic relationship.

Boston marriage: an American term used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to denote two women that 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.

Blood brother or blood sister: may refer to people related by birth, or a circle of friends who swear loyalty by mingling the blood of each member together.

Cross-sex friendship is one that is defined by a person having a friend of the opposite sex: a male who has a female friend, or a female who has a male friend. Historically cross-sex friendships have been rare. This is caused by the fact that 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.

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's called an open marriage.

Roommate: a person who shares a room or apartment (flat) with another person and do not share a familial or romantic relationship.

Imaginary friend: a non-physical friend created by a child. 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.

Spiritual friendship: the Buddhist ideal of kalyana-mitra, that is a relationship between friends with a common interest, though one person may have more knowledge and experience than the other. The relationship is the responsibility of both friends and both bring something to it.


See also: Marriage

Love is closely related to friendship in that it involves strong interpersonal ties between two or more people.

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 where the sexual element does not enter.
  2. Romance : considered similar to Platonic love, but involves sexual elements.

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:

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 friendship and animal friendship

Image:Jesseriley_(3).jpg|Yorkshire Terrier and BichonFriendship as a type of interpersonal relationship is found also among animals with high 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: ethology, altruism in animals, sociobiology

See also


  1. Kornblum, Janet (June 22, 2006). Study: 25% of Americans have no one to confide in. USA Today.
  2. McPherson, Smith-Lovin, Brashears (Volume 71, Number 3, June 2006). [1]. American Sociological Review.
  3. Jñanavira, Dharmachari (2001). Homosexuality in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. Western Buddhist Review. 3.
  4. Conger, Galambos, 1996, p. 204
  5. Grabmeier, Jeff (January 6, 2004). Friendships play key role in suicidal thoughts of girls, but not boys. Ohio State University.
  6. Spakrs, Glenn (August 7, 2007). Study shows what makes college buddies lifelong friends. Purdue University.

Further reading

  • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics
  • Bech, Henning (1997). When men meet: homosexuality and modernity. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226040219.
  • Bleske, April L, Buss, David M “Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?” In Personal Relationships, 2000, 7, 2, June, 131-151
  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Laelius de Amicitia
  • Conger, John Janeway; Galambos, Nancy (1996). Adolescence and youth: psychological development in a changing world. Longman. ISBN 978-0673992628.
  • Hein, David (2004). "Farrer on Friendship, Sainthood, and the Will of God" in Captured by the Crucified: The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer. New York and London: Continuum/T. & T. Clark. p. 119 – 148
  • Heyking, John von; Avramenko, Richard (2008). Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Kalmijn, Matthijs. “Sex Segregation of Friendship Networks: Individual and Structural Determinants of Having Cross-Sex Friends.” In European Sociological Review, 2002, 18, 1, Mar, 101-117
  • Lewis, C. S. (1974). The Four Loves. Collins. ISBN 978-0006207993.
  • Muraco, Anna. “Heterosexual Evaluations of Hypothetical Friendship Behavior Based on Sex and Sexual Orientation.” In Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2005, 22, 5, Oct, 587-605
  • Reeder, Heidi M. “The Effect of Gender Role Orientation on Same- and Cross-Sex Friendship Formation.” In Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 2003, 49, 3-4, Aug, 143-152
  • Strogatz, Steven Henry, "The Calculus of Friendship : what a teacher and a student learned about life while corresponding about math", Princeton: Princeton University Pressmarker, 2009. ISBN 9780691134932
  • Yager, Jan (2002). When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., Fireside Books.

External links

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