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a 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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


See also Loyalty.
traditional symbol of friendship. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 172]
Achilles and Patroclus
beloved friends and constant companions, especially during the Trojan War. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 194]
Amos and Andy
dim-witted Andy Brown and level-headed partner Amos Jones, owners of the Fresh Air Taxi Cab Company. [Radio and TV: “The Amos and Andy Show” in Terrace, I, 54]
Amys and Amylion
the Pylades and Orestes (q.v., below) of the feudal ages. [Medieval Lit.: LLEI, I: 269]
Biddy and Pip
“friends for life.” [Br. Lit.: Great Expectations]
Castor and Pollux
twin brothers who lived and died together. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 52]
Chingachgook and Natty Bumppo
Chingachgook as Natty Bumppo’s constant sidekick and advisor. [Am. Lit.: The Path-finder, Magill I, 715–717]
Damon and Pythias
each agreed to die to save the other. [Gk. Hist.: Espy, 48]
Diomedes and Sthenelus
Sthenelus was the companion and charioteer of Diomedes. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 248]
Fannie and Edmund Bertram
while others ignored Fannie, he comforted her. [Br. Lit.: Mansfield Park, Magill I, 562–564]
Fred and Ethel
the Ricardos’ true-blue pals. [TV: “I Love Lucy” in Terrace, I, 383–384]
Friday and Robinson Crusoe
Friday was Robinson Crusoe’s sole companion on desert island. [Br. Lit.: Robinson Crusoe]
ivy leaves
symbolic of strong and lasting companionship. [Heraldry: Halberts, 31]
Jane Frances de Chantal and Francis de Sales, Sts
. two of most celebrated in Christian annals. [Christian Hagiog.: Attwater, 183]
Jonathan and David
swore compact of love and mutual protection. [O.T.: I Samuel 18:1-3; 20:17]
Lightfoot, Martin and Hereward
Hereward’s companion during various wanderings. [Br. Lit.: Hereward the Wake, Magill I, 367–370]
Nisus and Euryalus
fought bravely together; Nisus dies rescuing Euryalus. [Rom. Hist.: Wheeler, 259; Rom. Lit.: Aeneid]
Peggotty, Clara, and David
Copperfield lifelong friends. [Br. Lit.: David Copperfield]
Petronius and Nero
Petronius as nobleman and intimate friend of Nero. [Polish Lit.: Quo Vadis, Magill I, 797–799]
nicknamed “City of Brotherly Love.” [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2127]
Pylades and Orestes
Pylades willing to sacrifice life for Orestes. [Gk. Lit.: Oresteia, Kitto, 68–90]
Standish, Miles and John Alden
best friends, despite their love for Priscilla. [Am. Lit.: “The Courtship of Miles Standish” in Magill I, 165–166]
Theseus and Pirithoüs
Pirithofis, King of Lapithae, was intimate friend of Theseus, Athenian hero. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 195]
Three Musketeers, The
three comrades known by motto, “All for one, and one for all.” [Fr. Lit.: The Three Musketeers]
Tiberge and the Chevalier
Tiberge as ever-assisting shadow of the chevalier. [Fr. Lit.: Manon Lescaut]
Wilbur and Charlotte
spider and pig as loyal companions. [Children’s Lit.: Charlotte’s Web]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
After these two noble fruits of friendship (peace in the affections, and support of the judgment), followeth the last fruit; which is like the pomegranate, full of many kernels; I mean aid, and bearing a part, in all actions and occasions.
Our friendships hurry to short and poor conclusions, because we have made them a texture of wine and dreams, instead of the tough fibre of the human heart.
I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage.
Of course, the wheelbarrow is worth far more than the plank, but true, friendship never notices things like that.
I may be wrong, but I should have thought that friendship, true friendship, was quite free from selfishness of any kind.'
"You are too gross--too envious--in short, you never see such friendships between men as exist between women."
"Why I mean, that your friendships are generally interested; that it requires services and good offices to support it."
But if all I have said be not enough to turn thee from thy vile purpose, thou must seek some other instrument for thy dishonour and misfortune; for such I will not consent to be, though I lose thy friendship, the greatest loss that I can conceive."
Having said this, the wise and virtuous Lothario was silent, and Anselmo, troubled in mind and deep in thought, was unable for a while to utter a word in reply; but at length he said, "I have listened, Lothario my friend, attentively, as thou hast seen, to what thou hast chosen to say to me, and in thy arguments, examples, and comparisons I have seen that high intelligence thou dost possess, and the perfection of true friendship thou hast reached; and likewise I see and confess that if I am not guided by thy opinion, but follow my own, I am flying from the good and pursuing the evil.
But a greater betrayal of friendship was yet to follow.
It was scarcely as much as Essex had once given him out of friendship. To Bacon it seemed too small a reward for his betrayal of his friend, even although it had seemed to mean loyalty to his Queen.
There was no resisting this appeal; the captain, forthwith, furnished the coveted supply of powder and ball; but at the same time, put spurs to his very fine gift-horse, and the first trial of his speed was to get out of all further manifestation of friendship, on the part of the affectionate old patriarch and his insinuating family.

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