A Friend in Need is a friend indeed

Friendship is a relationship and concern between individuals and provides positive emotional support. Friends care for one another and look out for each other. In order for a deep understanding to occur between friends it requires opening up about personal things, listening carefully, and being loyal to one another Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum and are sometimes viewed as weaknesses

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

* The tendency to desire what is best for the other
* Sympathy and empathy
* Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one's counterpart
* Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
* Enjoyment of each other's company
* Trust in one another
* Positive reciprocity -- a relationship is based on equal give-and-take between the two parties.
* The ability to be oneself, express one's feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgement.

Friendship development through childhood

At the early school age, friendships are based on the sharing of toys and objects and the enjoyment that is received from performing activities together. Friendships at this age are maintained through affection, sharing, and creative play time. Sharing is hard for children at this age level as they are very self-oriented. However, children are likely to share more with someone they consider to be a friend than with someone who is just a peer (Newman and Newman, 2012).

As a child moves from early school age to middle childhood, they face the developmental task of friendship. At this stage in life, children become less individualized and more aware of others. They begin to see their friends point of view and have fun playing in groups of peers who have the same interests as them. They also experience peer rejection as they move through the middle childhood years. It is important to teach a child that it is natural to sometimes be unaccepted by others but to remain positive about the friends they still have. Establishing good friendships at a young age helps a child to be better acclimated in society later on in their life (Newman and Newman, 2012).

In a 1974 study,[9] Bigelow and La Gaipa, in one of the first studies conducted regarding children's friendships, found that expectations of a best friend become increasingly complex as a child gets older. The study investigated the criteria for "best friend" in a sample of 480 children between the ages of six and fourteen years of age.

Their findings highlighted three stages of the development of friendship expectations.

First stage: emphasised shared activities and the importance of geographical closeness.
Second stage: emphasised sharing, loyalty and commitment.
Third stage: revealed growing importance of similar attitudes, values and interests.

The Study of Friendships in Adolescent Development

Friendships in adolescent development include positive influences on how they act, feel, and think, and also problematic aspects including negative peer pressure. Which one is more prominent? To find out one needs to consider the characteristics of friends and how these friendships form. A study was conducted by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health where 9,234 American adolescents were examined to determine how their engagement in problem behavior (stealing, fighting, sexual activity, truancy) was related to the kinds of friends they had and to the peer networks and schools in which these friendships were located. Findings revealed that adolescents were less likely to engage in problem behavior when their friends did well in school, participated in school activities, avoided drinking and had good mental health. Also, these positive characteristics are greater when done together within the social group. How adolescents are affected by friendships could be shaped by their location in their group. For example, the one who is most central to their peer networks were the most influenced by their friends. Results also found that adolescents has less problematic behavior when they attended schools with similar characteristics to their friends (friends who did well at school at an academically rigorous school). Ones that engaged in more problem behavior resulted from friends with opposing characteristics to the school (friends who drank at an academically rigorous school). Thus, whether adolescents were influenced by their friends to engage in problem behavior depended on how much they were exposed to these friends and whether they and their friendship groups "fit in" at school.
Friendships in Adulthood

(Fowler) Just like adolescents, relationships with friends are important to older adults. Friends contribute to our satisfaction, give us a sense of belonging, competence, and self-worth. Friendship involves: - Enjoyment - spending time doing things together and sharing life experiences - Trust--believing that our friends act on our behalf. - Respect and understanding--believing that our friends have the right to their own opinions. - Mutual assistance--helping and supporting our friends and having them help us. - Confiding--sharing confidential matters with our friends.

Types of Friendships Friends are people we know and trust, and who are special to us socially and emotionally. Friends are usually chosen among people who are considered the same as us. The people adults select as friends tend to be those who: - we have grown up with - have similar occupations - have children the same age - have similar interests - are the same general age and the same gender

The majority of adults have three or more close friends and more than half of adults have ten or more friends. Men and women have the same number of friends, however, women are likely to confide more in friendships than men. Men tend to enjoy activities or discuss and practice special skills. Adults also often make friends based on who their children are friends with. Many times, parents within a neighborhood are all friends because they are around each other so much because of their children. Parents will also often make friends with other parents on their children's sports teams as a result of being around each other so much. Not all adult acquaintances will end up in the friendship stage. However, it is likely that some will share commonalities and form a deeper relationship (Newman and Newman, 2012).

With life events as marriage, parenthood, and accelerated career development, young adulthood merges into middle adulthood. Following marriage, both women and men report having fewer cross-gender friends. Reasons being suspicion and jealousy, and spouses spend most of their free time together rather than separately in social situations that might lead to cross-sex friendship formation. Also, when people marry they generally become more dependent on spouses and less so on friends for meeting social needs (Friendships, 2012).

Duration of Friendships Long-term and short-term friends vary in their characteristics. Long-term friends are the people with whom we can reminisce about memories that occurred during our lifetime. Changes in life such as health changes or retirement are less disruptive on longterm friendships. Short-term friendships help us to deal with changes that affect our daily roles, such as moving into a new area or starting a new job.

Friends Keep Us Healthy Social interactions with friends help us lead longer and healthier lives. Studies show that people who enjoy interaction with friends live longer and healthier than those who are socially isolated. Friends are relied upon for emotional support, and a close network of friends can help us through challenges in life.

How Can Friends Help in Times of Crisis? Friends can strengthen relationships by: - keeping in regular contact by phone, mail, or in person - allowing your friend to express emotions - listening to your friend's feelings and his/her perception of a situation - being non-judgmental and not offering advice unless asked

(Emotional and social development in late adulthood) - having friends is very important for the mental health among the elderly

Functions of Elder Relationships Intimacy and companionship - mutual interests, belongingness, and ability to express feelings and confide in each other Acceptance - late-life friends shield one another from negative judgments about their capabilities and worth as a person while aging A link to the larger community - for elders who cannot go out as often, interactions with friends can keep them socially interactive Protection from the psychological consequences of loss - older adults in declining health who remain in contact with friends show improved psychological well-being

Characteristics of Elder Relationships Older adults prefer familiar and established relationships over new ones, but friendship formation continues throughout life. With age, elders report that the friends they feel closest to are fewer in number and live in the same community. Elders tend to choose friends whose age, sex, race, ethnicity, and values are like their own. Compared with younger people, fewer report other-sex friendships. Older women have more secondary friends who are not intimates but with whom they spend time occasionally (group that meets for lunch, bridge, or museum tours). Through these associates, elders meet new people and gain in psychological well-being.

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