Are Friends Ever Really Forever?`

Published January 28, 2013 by jrm17

Me being me, I had a schedule for doing all my homework this week and then it hit me that I forgot to add in time for my independent research and I happen to have a meeting on Wednesday to discuss it yet not much time to figure out things before then.  Therefore, today’s blog is going to be somewhat of a lit review for my topic.  The big thing I need to figure out is what my specific research question is.  I know I want to study the stability of friendships over the course of college with the hypothesis that friendships for residents are more stable and formed earlier than those for commuter students.  I guess my question is this: Are friendships for resident college students more stable than those of students who commute to college (Y’all think that’s good enough?  We’ll see on Wednesday I reckon).

Our first journal article is called Friendships and Adaptation across the Life Span by Willard Hartup and Nan Stevens.  It says we begin to interact with specific friends and the word “friend” enters into our vocabulary around the age of 3 or 4 with 75 percent of preschool-aged children being involved in mutual friendships.  According to the article, that number increases to 80-90 percent of middle school-aged children having mutual friends and now categorizing them such as “close friends,” “best friends,” and “friends” (Really? I thought this would be like 95-98 percent).  They then say that boys tend to have larger social networks of friends whereas girls have smaller but closer networks.  That makes sense because boys just hang out in groups whereas girls hang out in small cohorts of no more than 5 usually and they stay with them as opposed to boys who interact with basically everyone.  People spend about 1/3 of their waking time with friends during middle school and that continues to dwindle until it reaches about 10 percent in middle age and past.  The importance of friendship is for a person’s well-being yet it is not clear whether a friendship is beneficial for a person’s well being or if people with a higher well being find it easier to make friends.  They found that the support from friendships is especially beneficial for females and for the older cohorts who must cope with difficult times in their lives such as losing loved ones.  Okay, that all pretty much makes sense and is a good background for my study.  Let’s find out a little more….

The next is The Quality of Adolescent Friendships: Long Term Effects? by Peggy Giordano, Stephen Cernkovich, H. Theodore Groat, M. D. Pugh and Steven P. Swinford.  This study actually showed something against intuition saying that they found that adolescents with strong, intimate friendships did not show being more confident as an adult nor does it correlate to the chances of committing crimes in adulthood.  Okay, that one didn’t really have much information and since it is counterintuitive, I’m going to just move on to Friendship Quality and Social Development by Thomas Berndt (Sounds promising, right?).  He stated that high-quality friendships–those such as best friends who tell each other everything and love each other–is correlated with indicators of social adjustment.  I’d be interested in seeing how high the correlation coefficient is because it would seem to be the opposite of what the prior article says but I would tend to think this way when just thinking about the subject and not doing research.  Oh wait, I should have read more.  It says that the coefficient is actually weak though statistically significant (No, that does not me that it is significant like you are thinking but it just means that there is correlation.  It would be a small number since he’s saying it’s weak, which means that they correlate but not a whole lot).  He said that he and his colleagues found that boys who were involved with negative friendships had a lessened enjoyment and respect for school at the end of the year than those with positive ones.

The last article I’m looking at for now actually takes an interesting perspective on the research aspect of the subject.  The Wider Circle of Friends in Adolescence by Peggy Giordano took upon researching how friends communicate.  She looked at the messages to people in their yearbooks.  She found that while many people sign yearbooks whether they are close or not, the close friendships find a way to distinguish themselves from the rest.  They use inside jokes, references to the past and the future, codes known only the the friends, and nicknames.  They even go so far as to marked spaces “Reserved for…” to signify their place in the owner’s life as important.  Year book messages follow three rules that she found: saying something nice about the owner, talking about the relationship with the owner, and giving advice or warm wishes.  Since I’m not too long out of high school (four years is not that long), I can say that I found all her reports to correlate with my experiences (I even have an ex-best friend talking about being my maid or honor one day in my senior book).

Well, I have a few more journal articles to find the .pdf for instead of the abstract before I make any conclusions but it’s looking like there’s not a whole lot focusing on the stability of friendships as opposed to the effects of friendships.  I’ve for a few intervening variables I need to look at like clubs and sports and if the person has a significant other (My adviser is convinced that people stop widening their circle when they’ve already found their mate because we use friendships to find love…I think otherwise).  I think I’ve got a good topic here.  Student service people can benefit from it because I honestly think that when you don’t live on campus and see your friends as often, those friendships are more likely to terminate.  I know that it happened to me and at least one of my other friends.  You go to class; you go home to your friends and your pre-established group as opposed to sticking around your school.  We’ll see what happens I guess.  Let’s just get this research done!

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