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friendshipa relationship between persons well known to each other which involves liking and affection, and may also involve mutual obligations such as loyalty. In contrast to kinship or other ASCRIBED STATUSES, friendship relationships are difficult to specify with precision since they are, above all, characterized by their fluid and voluntary nature and vary greatly in duration and intensity. As stated by Seymour-Smith (1986), ‘The study of friendship is part of the study of social networks, of RECIPROCITY, and of relationships created by individuals in the social space which is left undetermined by the system of kin or other obligatory relationships.’ From the limited amount of research on friendship in modern societies that has been done, it can be suggested that friendship is a significant factor in personal wellbeing, but that most adults regard themselves as having relatively few close friends (Suttles, 1970). However, there are marked gender differences, women commonly having more close friends than men, and regarding these relationships as more central in their lives. Among children, friendship and relations with peers play an important part in the process of SOCIALIZATION. See also PEER GROUP, INTIMACY, SOCIOMETRICS.
relationships between people that are based on mutual affection, spiritual closeness, and common interests. Friendship is inherently a personal relationship (as opposed, for example, to a business relationship) and is characterized by voluntariness and individual selectivity (in contrast to kinship or to solidarity, which are determined by membership in one group), internal closeness or intimacy (unlike a merely amicable relationship), and stability.
It is necessary to distinguish friendship as a social institution, or system of social norms (sociological aspect), a moral sentiment (psychological aspect), and a specific form of interrelationships (sociopsychological aspect). The real meaning of friendship has changed in the course of history. In primitive tribal society the term “friendship” referred to ritualistic relationships associated with symbolic kinship (for example, blood friendship and adopted brothers). The methods of concluding friendship and the rights and obligations of friends in primitive societies were regulated by custom and were often placed above actual kinship (for example, the military friendship of Homer’s Achilles and Patroclus).
As tribal bonds disintegrated, friendly relationships were increasingly juxtaposed to kinship relations, and a man’s friends included all his political followers and those who shared his opinions. Such friendship-comradeship, based on common interests, was devoid of personal emotional affection, which develops with the formation of personality. In ancient Greece intellectual and other attachments were not distinguished from erotic relationships. Plato’s ideal of disinterested love-friendship, in which sensual attraction is subordinate to a striving for moral perfection, contains internal contradictions. Only Aristotle eliminated the opposition of friendship-comradeship and love-friendship by considering friendship a highly individualized relationship free of erotic connotations.
In the history of philosophy, friendship has been considered primarily on the level of ethics. Some philosophers, such as Montaigne, emphasize the emotional aspect of friendship, while others (for example, Helvetius) attributed friendship to common interests or rational egoism. The German romantics, who created the present cult of friendship, viewed it as a refuge from the egoism of the bourgeois world. The Utopian socialists advocated the establishment of friendship among all people. The first empirical studies on friendship by psychologists and sociologists were begun in the late 19th century.
Although friendship is an intimate personal relationship, its formation and development depend on a number of objective conditions: spatial proximity, frequency of contacts, membership in a common group, joint activities, and common goals and interests. Since Aristotle there has been a controversy whether friendship is based on similarity or mutual complementarity of friends. There is a great deal of corroboration for the similarity hypothesis (the demonstrated prevalence of homogeneity of social status, sex, age, education, upbringing, basic values, and some personal attributes of friends). However, the interpretations of this evidence are ambiguous, and modern psychology prefers to state the problem in stricter analytical terms, since the structure of friendly relationships (for example, symmetrical roles and equality) depends on the psychological functions of friendship.
The content and functions of friendship change substantially with age. Childhood friendship is an emotional attachment that is most often based on joint activities. Although the degree of selectivity and stability of friendship increases with the age of the child, the genuine need for a “second self” (alter ego) appears only among adolescents and is associated with a need to know the self and correlate one’s emotional experiences with the experiences of another person. Consequently, there is a strenuous search for and frequent idealization of friendship, and youthful friendships have a “confessional” quality and are extraordinarily emotional. Adult bonds of friendship are more differentiated because new forms of social intercourse are open to adults, including love and family and parental attachments.
Communist morality regards friendship as one of the most important moral feelings and relationships of the personality. Class-antagonistic society, in which the people’s interests are dissociated and “surrogates of collectivity” (K. Marx) are substituted for the free association of people, places its members in mutually hostile relationships. In socialist society, personal friendly attachments are not, as a rule, opposed to a system of social ties, but, being based on common viewpoints and ideals, supplement these ties and give them concrete expression. The moral evaluation of friendship is determined by its social impact and the values that it affirms. Classic examples of true and high-principled friendship (Marx and Engels, A. I. Herzen and N. P. Ogarev) still serve today as models of morality.
I. S. KON