What follows are chapter-by-chapter notes for those readers of Friends Beyond Borders who would like to learn about the research and theorizing that provided the background and underpinnings of my ideas about cultural differences in close friendships. I’ve tried, as much as possible, to follow the same sequence of assertions made in the book. Full references for the citations below can be found at the References link on this website.
Chapter One: How it all started
My personal strategies for learning to speak a foreign language can also be found on this website.
To learn more about culture shock, including reentry shock (sometimes referred to as “reverse culture shock”), I would recommend a cross-cultural training manual, such as Kohls (2001) or Hess and Linderman (2007). Any basic textbook in cross-cultural communications or cross-cultural psychology will also cover these topics.
Chapter Two: What is friendship?
The definitions of friendship specified by relationship researchers that I used as the basis for my analysis include the following: Adams and Blieszner (1989), Adams and Allan (1998), Bell (1981), Bell and Coleman (1999), Fehr (1996), Nicotera (1993), Pogrebin (1987), Rawlins (1992, 2009), and Wiseman (1986).
The idea that some cultures do not see friendship as voluntary relationship can be found, for example, in the work of Goodwin and Findlay (1997) and Glenn (2005).
In some cultures, all relationships are hierarchical in nature. This assertion is documented in any of the analyses of close relationships in East Asian cultures, such as Yoon and Choi (1994). Any work that explains the influence of Confucian thought on eastern cultures would also emphasizes this notion.
The example I give to show the lower status of friendships compared to family relationships in Nigeria came from Nicotera (1993).
Chapter Three: What the experts have to say
There are a number of translations of de Tocqueville’s work—I can recommend de Tocqueville and Hammar (2004).
For the student who would like a comprehensive overview of the empirical research concerning friendship (mostly from a Western perspective), I highly recommend Beverly Fehr’s Friendship Processes. Despite its 1996 publication date, her take on key issues regarding close friendships holds up quite well even today. For a communications perspective, I can recommend William Rawlins’ The Compass of Friendship (2010) and his earlier book, Friendship Matters (1992). For a sociological perspective, I suggest Allan (1989), Adams and Allan (1998), and Blieszner and Adams (1992). For an anthropological perspective, I suggest Bell and Coleman (1999) and Brain (1976).
For a review of the literature on cultural aspects of close friendships, I recommend Elisabeth Gareis’ Intercultural Friendship, a highly readable account of the friendship stories of fifteen international students studying on a U.S. campus. Robin Goodwin (1999) has written an excellent overview of existing research on the role that culture plays in all close relationships. And although I’ve almost never seen it cited in any of the research literature I’ve read, Gurdin (1996) offers a unique approach to differing cultural styles of close friendship.
To learn more about the International Association for Relationship Research, I highly recommend their website: www.iarr.org. Clicking on “media and blogs” will lead you to a list of sites featuring the writings of IARR members aimed at a more general audience. Very noteworthy among them is www.ScienceOfRelationships.com, which is written and edited by highly respected relationship researchers. Some articles on this site are written like an advice column, but in my opinion, the quality of the advice is a step above much of what can be found in commercial media.
The two primary journals of IARR are Personal Relationships and The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and I’ve used these two journals extensively in my own work.
For an overview of cross-cultural theory and research, including all the dimensions I mention in this chapter and especially as they apply to social behaviors, I recommend Goodwin (1999), Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, and Nishida (1996), Hall and Hall (1990), Hofstede (1980, 1991, 1997), Smith and Bond (1999), Triandis (1994, 1995), or Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1998). My definitions of the Individualism- collectivism dimension were derived primarily from the work of Geert Hofstede and Edward T. Hall.
In this chapter, I assert that professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds hold that USAers are not interested in close, committed friendships, at least when compared to most other cultures of the world. This view of friendships stems from a broader perspective on cultural differences in friendships based on the individualism/collectivism dimension, which asserts that people in individualist cultures put little stock in close friendships. Rather, they tend to have a large number of friends with whom they feel less close compared to people in collectivist cultures, who according to this view tend to have fewer, more intimate and longer lasting friendships.
What follows are examples of these assertions drawn from different disciplines: From psychology, Goodwin (1998, 1999), Reis, Collins, and Berscheid (2000), Triandis (1994, 1995); from communications Chen (2006) and Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988); from anthropology, Stewart and Bennett (1991); from professionals in the field of university student services (study-abroad experts), Bulthuis (1986); from international business, Wallach and Metcalf (1995). My reference to Edward Stewart comes from Stewart and Bennett (1991).
At the point when I began my research in the early 1990’s, no one had tested these assertions directly and empirically, by asking people in various cultures how many close friends they had, how long they had been friends nor had they taken measures of friendship closeness. A study by Wheeler, Reis and Bond (1989) is often cited as evidence for this classic view. However, their study didn’t actually focus on friendships explicitly. They simply had students in Hong Kong and the U.S. keep diaries of all their
social interactions over a period of time. They found that students in Hong Kong had fewer but longer interactions with fewer people compared to students in the U.S.
As I noted in this chapter, my findings never matched the classic characterizations of friendships in individualist versus collectivist cultures. For example, USAers, typically seen as a highly individualist culture, reliably indicated the smallest number of close friends compared to other cultures I studied.
I can now cite others who are more consistent with my perspective. Anthropologists such as Bell and Coleman (1999) have argued that kinship dominates the relationships in many cultures, and that friendships reach their full potential only in Western cultures which are more independent of kinship relationships (i.e., individualist cultures). Rybak and McAndrew (2006), Takahashi, et al. (2002), and You and Malley- Morrison (2000) found that USAers rated their friendships as closer than did respondents in Poland, South Korea, and Japan. From a more theoretical perspective, Hsu (1985) has argued that people in collectivist cultures would cultivate less intimate friendships compared to people in individualist cultures like the U.S. My point here is that I’m not alone in maintaining that USAers can have very close and satisfying friendships.
It is fair to note that there have also been findings consistent with the classic view of friendships in collectivist versus individualist cultures (and contrary to my findings). Reis, Collins and Berscheid (2000), Verkuyten and Masson (1996), Chen (2006) found that friendships were more intimate in collectivist cultures. French et al. (2006) got mixed results concerning this same issue.
One thing is rather clear, when social networks are the focus of the research, USAers do evidence larger networks than many other cultures (Adams and Plaut, 2003). We’ll see this finding repeated in Chapter Thirteen where I examine the role of Facebook in friendships.
As I mention, the individualism/collectivism dimension shows up in all of the large, comprehensive studies of cultural values. This dimension forms the underlying basis for all six of the styles of friendship I discuss in the book, with the Independent, Includer, and Idealist styles being generally associated with individualist cultures, and the Intervener, Excluder, and Realist styles with collectivist cultures. I will note exceptions to this rule along the way.
However, I should mention that this dimension has been controversial for the last two decades, simply because, from a theoretical perspective, it explains too much. It tends to lump together cultures such as those in East Asia, South America and throughout most of Africa, cultures, which in fact have little in common. This dimension also has measurement problems that greatly complicate cross-cultural research.
Despite these problems, even in current editions of cross-cultural journals, the individualism/collectivism dimension is cited quite frequently to explain various outcomes. Researchers have not developed a convincing way to address the problems with this dimension. Perhaps, breaking it down into its constituent components (as I’ve done here) could provide the beginnings of a solution.
Chapter Four: Interveners: Friends taking care of each other
The opening anecdote of this chapter, asking whether or not you would testify against a close friend who was speeding and hit a pedestrian was based on the work of Fons Trompenaars, and a full explanation of his work and its many implications can be found in Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner (1998).
The vignette study, the one involving Megan and Cheryl and their differing study habits, can be found at Baumgarte (2001—under “Publications” link on this site).
The idea that Interveners feel comfortable and see it as healthy to depend on their friends is exemplified in the research of Maeda and Ritchie (2003) or Kuroda, Aritoshi, and Sakurai (2004). In fact, interdependence has been considered a critical, defining aspect of Intervener or collectivist cultures by all of the major cross-cultural theorists.
My thinking about the Korean concept of choeng was influenced primarily by the work of Lee (1994), Lim and Choi (1996), and Yum and Canary (2003). I’ve encountered the term frequently in my readings about Korean culture over the years. The Jae Ho Cha work can be found at Cha (1994).
Intervener friends feel it is their duty to advise, aid, protect, take care of, instruct or influence each other in positive ways. In this chapter, I argue that this style of friendship is more common in some cultures (mostly collectivist cultures) than others. These assertions are based primarily on my own research, but I was also influenced by that of Dion and Dion (1996), Gao (1996), Goodwin and Plaza (2000), Maeda and Ritchie (2003), Searle-White (1996), and Taylor et al. (2004).
The idea that Intervener friendships are less affected when the give and take of their relationship becomes out of balance grows out of what is called exchange theory (e.g., Kay, 2003) in social psychology, especially when this theory is tested across cultures. Goodwin (1999) provides an excellent review of this research. Good examples of research showing that South Koreans are less affected when the exchange among friends becomes unbalanced can be found in Kim (1997), Koh, Mendelson, and Rhee (2003), and Yum (1987). Realo, Kästik, and Allik (2004) showed that the same applies in Estonia.
My suggestion that some northern European countries may lean toward the Intervener style friendships can be seen in the work of Ikkink and van Tilburg (1998). Searle- White (1996) has shown that this style may also be prevalent in Russia.
For those interested in learning more about Korean culture, I suggest Kohls (2001), Park (1994), Yang (1990) and Crane (1978).
Chapter Five: Independents: Respecting a friend’s autonomy
The citations for the notion that USAers are not generally oriented toward close, committed friendships are given in the Chapter Three notes. I try to argue in this chapter that this conclusion is an over simplification.
What follows are sources that support, directly or indirectly, the concept of the Independent style of friendship. Most of these studies were done with USAers as research participants.
The idea that dependency among friends can be seen as unhealthy among USAers is supported by the work of Kagitcibasi (1990), Furman (2001), and Taylor et al. (2003).
Along the same lines, Kitayama et al. (2009) showed that the independent mindset is much more normative among USAers.
Werner and Parmlee (1979) found that friends who play together tend to stay together—having fun does matter in friendship. Adams and Plaut (2003) found that USAers value companionship and emotional support in their close friendships more than the Africans in their sample. Bolger, Zuckerman, and Kessler (2000) showed that support among USAer friends is often “invisible” because it tends to be verbal in nature, words of encouragement, rather than actions.
Several studies found that friendships in the U.S. are based on supporting each other’s egos more than what would be the norm in other cultures. Examples of such studies include Nicotera (1993), Ryan et al. (2005), and Taylor et al. (2004). Work by Sedikides et al. (2004) demonstrates the critical role that having a healthy self-esteem plays among USAers. In a longitudinal study of USAer college students, Weisz and Wood (2005) found that supporting each other’s identity is critical to friendship formation and maintenance. For a more complex and critical look at self-enhancement and culture, see Sedikides, Gaertner, and Toguchi (2003).
Reinhardt, Boerner, and Horowitz (2006) demonstrated that among the elderly, receiving aid from a friend can leave one feeling incompetent. Pemberton and Sedikides (2001) showed that friends will refrain from giving helpful advice the closer the friendship. (Giving strong advice is more common among Interveners rather than Independents.)
Kagitcibasi (1990) has also commented on the differing connotations of the words “independent” and “dependent” in English compared to other languages.
I make the assertion that when relationship closeness is compared across cultures, differences often don’t favor Intervener cultures, or at least, such differences are seldom persuasive. Sources that support my perspective on this issue are the following: Adams and Plaut (2003), Bell and Coleman (1999), Chen (1995), French, et al. (2006), Hsu (1985), Li (2002), Nicotera (1997), Rybak and McAndrew (2006), Sheets and Lugar (2005), Takahashi et al. (2002), You (2000), You and Malley-Morrison (2000), and Yum and Canary (2003).
Closeness among friends should not be confused with interdependence. This notion originally came from a paper by Kim, Butzel, and Ryan (1998).
Assertions about score keeping are based on exchange theory, which has limited applicability outside the U.S., according to Goodwin (1999), Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey and Nishida (1996), Ikkink and van Tilburg (1998) and Gao (1996). See Chapter Four notes for other references on exchange theory as it applies to the two styles of friendship.
Chapter Six: The spoken and the unspoken
For an interesting perspective on the nature of apologies in different cultures, see Maddux and Kim (2012). Ohbuchi and Takahashi (1994) showed that Interveners tend to avoid apologies.
In writing this chapter, I was strongly influenced by the classic work of Edward T. Hall (1976) and the writings of Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, and Nishida (1996).
The idea that people in Intervener cultures put less emphasis on words as a form of communication is reinforced by the work of Burleson (2003), Chang and Holt (1993), Chen (1995), Heejung (2008), Kim (2002), and Samter et al. (1997). The idea that words can be less consoling to someone who is upset is based more directly on the work of Burleson (2003) and Samter et al. (1997). Gareis and Wilkins (2011a, 2011b) have shown that words of affection are interpreted quite differently across cultures.
Masuda and Nisbette (2001) and Sanchez-Burks et al. (2003) demonstrated that Interveners pay attention to a different (contextual) set of communicative cues.
I don’t have specific citations for the Korean concept of kibun, but simply doing an internet search brought up lots of very rich descriptions along with examples that would fit the way I’ve used the term.
For good sources about the role of self-disclosure in friendship formation and maintenance in the U.S., see Bauminger et al. (2008), Gore, Cross, and Morris (2006), Grabill and Kerns (2000), Oswald and Clark (2003), Sanderson, Rahm, and Beigbeder (2005), and Vittengl and Holt (2000). For cultural differences in the role of self- disclosure in friendships, see Goodwin (1999), Goodwin and Lee (1994), Gudykunst and Nishida (1983), Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, and Nishida (1996), Kito (2003), Marshall (2008), Sheets and Lugar (2005), Wolfson and Pearce (1983), and Won- Doornink (1985).
For the direct comparison between France and the U.S. regarding the self-disclosing of personal information, see Carroll (1988).
In addition to work by Ohbuchi and Takahashi (1994) concerning the Japanese, my statements about what Interveners might do in place of apologies were based on my own personal experiences with Koreans and my readings about Korean culture (Crane, 1978; Kohls, 2001; Park, 1994; and Yang, 1990).
Chapter Seven: Excluders: Are you with me or against me?
This chapter and the next present ideas commonly referred to in the cross-cultural literature as in-group versus out-group distinctions, which are one manifestation of the individualist (Includer) versus collectivist (Excluder) dimension.
People in Excluder cultures tend to make clear distinctions between those in their in- groups, family members, school or work mates, and friends, versus those in their out- groups, which covers everyone else. They are much warmer and more at ease with people in their in-groups, but colder and distrustful of most others.
People in Includer cultures, cross-cultural theorists argue, don’t make such clear distinctions, and instead tend to be rather open and friendly to everyone.
Theorists working in this field tend to use the analogy of the coconut versus the peach when comparing these two styles of socializing. Excluders are the coconuts, with a very hard shell, nearly impossible to penetrate. But once one does manage to get by the tough outer shell, the inner fruit is quite sweet. It may be difficult to initiate a friendship with an Excluder, so the analogy goes, but once you’ve passed by their social defenses, one discovers a warm and caring friend.
Includers are the peaches, very soft on the outside, but in this case, it is the inner core that is difficult to penetrate. Thus peaches are friendly at a superficial level. They’re warm and welcoming even when first encountered, and this easy friendliness confuses Excluders, leaving them to think they’ve penetrated the outer shell and are well on their way to a close friendship. However, for Includers, close friendship requires going beyond this stage to arrive at a deep and caring friendship.
So this chapter is based primarily on ideas that are already quite well established in this field, and the curious reader can consult chapters devoted to individualism- collectivism dimension in almost any text on cross-cultural psychology or cross- cultural communications for a more detailed presentation. Older, classic texts would include Hall and Hall (1990), Hofstede (1980, 1991), and Triandis (1994, 1995), whose work on this topic was based on that of Lewin (1948).
What I’ve tried to accomplish in this chapter is to give a feel of what it is like to live in an Excluder culture, especially as these concepts apply to close friendships.
Chapter Eight: Includers: Good at first impressions
Much of what was said about the last chapter applies to this one as well, and my goal in this chapter is to give a sense of what it’s like to live in an Includer culture. I originally conceived of the concept of Includers from Matthews (1986).
My assertion that USAers are oriented toward cultivating close, satisfying friendships despite their international reputation to the contrary is based on the same set of references listed for Chapter Five. This listing includes examples of findings showing that friendships in the U.S. are seen as close or closer than those studied in other cultures: Adams and Plaut (2003), Bell and Coleman (1999), Chen (1995), French, et al. (2006), Hsu (1985), Li (2002), Nicotera (1997), Rybak and McAndrew (2006), Sheets and Lugar (2005), Takahashi et al. (2002), You and Malley-Morrison (2000), and Yum and Canary (2003).
An example of relationship research focused on “peripheral relationships” would be Fingerman (2004).
Hsu (1985) has written about cultural differences in the bystander effect. Knafo, Schwartz, and Levine (2009) provide very convincing evidence that people are less likely to help strangers in what they call high-embeddedness (collectivist) cultures. Cultural factors in helping out-group members were also explored by Baron and Miller (2000).
Social skills for the superficial is a concept described by Hofstede (1980) and Triandis (1995). I interpret research by Lucas et al. (2000) as reinforcing these ideas.
Chapter Nine: Realists: Telling it like it is
General norms about cultural differences in communicative directness are explained by Canary and Dainton (2003), Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey and Nishida (1996), Kincaid (1987), and Ting-Toomey and Korzenny (1991).
Korean frankness and directness when dealing with their closest friends can be seen in the work of Yum and Canary (1997, 2003) and Yum (2004). Maeda and Ritchie (2003),
and Gundykunst and Nishida (1983) have shown that frankness in close relationships also applies to the Japanese.
My ideas about the cultural concept of “face” as it applies to friendships are reinforced by the work of Baxter, Dun, and Sahistein (2001), Cupach and Carson (2002), Hui and Bond (2009), and Schlenker and Britt (1999).
Culture and communication styles (directness versus indirectness) in work settings are discussed in Chaney and Martin (2000), Fang (1999), Mole (1992), Park (1994), Sanchez-Burks (2003), and Smyser (2003). The example I gave of a German giving a persuasive speech to exemplify indirect forms of communication would unlikely apply to interpersonal conversations among people who are well acquainted, in which case, Germans, like the Koreans, can be quite direct.
Here are examples of work related to measuring relationship closeness: Baldwin et al. (1996), Berscheid, Snyder, and Omoto (1989), Duck et al. (1991), Duck (1991), Eidelson and Epstein (1982), Harvey, Hendrick, and Tucker (1988), Hess, Fannin, and Pollom (2007), Ledbetter, Griffin, and Sparks (2007), Lund (1985), Maxwell (1985), Miller and Lefcourt (1982), Miller, Berg, and Archer (1982), Monsour (1992), Reis and Wheeler (1991), Repinsik and Zook (2005), Sharpley and Rogers (1984), Tesch (1985), and Wright (1985). The research reports that influenced my thinking the most about these matters are by Yum and Canary (1997, 2003).
Goodwin and Findlay (1997) have shown that many in Eastern cultures such as Korea and China see all close relationships, including friendships, as a matter of fate.
Chapter ten: Idealists: My friends would do anything for me
Samples of research looking at idealization in romantic or marital relationships and it’s role in relationship longevity and satisfaction are the following, including work implying that over time we come closer to our mate’s “ideal”: Agnew, Loving, and Drigotas (2001), Assad, Donnellan, and Conger (2007), Barelds and Dijkstra (with a Dutch sample, 2009), Geers, Reilley, and Dember (1998), Hall and Taylor (1976), Martz et al. (1998), McNulty and Karney (2004), Miller, Niehuis, and Huston (2006), Murray, Holmes, and Griffin (1996a, 1996b), Murray et al. (2002), Murray et al. (2009), Neff and Karney (2005), Rusbult et al. (2009), Rusbult et al. (2000), Ruvolo and Ruvolo (2000), and Zenter (2005).
The tendency to idealize one’s close relationships may differ over cultures. This idea is supported by the following three studies: Dion and Dion (1996), Endo, Heine, and Lehman (2000), and Flowers, Fişiloğlu, and Procacci (2008).
The following studies support directly or indirectly my speculation that idealization may apply to friendship as well as romantic relationships: Flannagan, Marsh, and Fuhrman (2005), Goel, Mason, and Watts (2010), Morry (2003, 2007), Schlenker and Britt (1999), Srivasta et al. (2006), and Wright (1978). The history of the tendency to idealize friendship can be found in Epstein (2006).
The idea that idealizing our friends might serve a self-enhancement function is supported in the work of Lalwani, Shavitt, and Johnson (2006), Markus and Kitayama (1991), Morry (2003, 2007), Schlenker and Britt (1999), and most relevant, Wright
(1978). Hepper, Sedikides, and Cai (2013) provide a broader perspective and a more critical look at the cultural aspects of the self-enhancement motive.
USAer optimism as well as their tendency to rate themselves as above average on most measures is critically examined in the following research: Alcetis, Dunning, and Miller (2008), Caprara et al. (2012), Chang and Asakawa (2003), Chang, Asakawa, and Sanna (2001), Chang et al. (2010), Diener and Suh (2000), Lalwani, Shavitt, and Johnson (2006), Markus and Kitayama (1991), Plaut, Markus, and Lachman (2002), Tam et al. (2012), Tsai et al. (2007), and Windschitl et al. (2008). An interesting perspective on the history of optimism in the U.S. can be found in Ehrenreich (2010).
Comparisons by relationship researchers between close friendships and romantic relationships can be seen most clearly in work that examines cross-sex friendships, such as that by Monsour (2002) and Werking (1997), but also in the work of Rawlins (1992, 2009). Vanderdrift, Lehmiller, and Kelly (2012) and Bisson and Levine (2009) provide examples of how relationship researchers think about the concept of “friends with benefits.”
For an example of Seligman’s work in “positive psychology,” see Seligman (2011). The most recent research and theorizing of positive psychology can be found at David, Boniwell, and Ayers (2012).
Chapter Five notes above provide citations relevant to my assertions that USAers often rate their relationships as closer than do people in other cultures, even very collectivist cultures.
The idea that friendships in Idealist cultures tend to be more fragile and require more “maintenance” is supported by the work of Goodwin and Findlay (1997), but also in the cross-cultural work on relationship maintenance, such as Yum and Canary (2003).
My thinking about the concept of “face” and how it applies to friendships in the U.S. has been influenced by the work of Baxter, Dun, and Sahistein (2001), Cupach and Carson (2002), Hui and Bond (2009), and Schlenker and Britt (1999).
The bases for my statements about relationship directness and indirectness are presented in the notes for Chapter Nine. Amy Dickinson’s “Ask Amy” column originates in the Chicago Tribune.
I should note that I’ve spoken to a cross-cultural researcher in Mexico who claims there is no basis for my example about Mexican friends who occasionally promise more than they deliver. I’ve also spoken to other researchers who claim that this phenomenon is common in some Latin American countries.
Chapter Eleven: Friends can be good medicine
I fabricated the opening anecdote in this chapter about the older gentleman who was visited by friends and family while in the hospital. My conclusions can be defended by work like Brummett et al. (1998), Christenfeld et al. (1997), and Ertel, Glymour, and Berkman (2009).
McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Brashears (2006) have shown that the number of people one thinks of as a close friend has declined over the last twenty years. For an overall review of this idea, plus more current data, see Hampton et al. (2009).
Carver, Lehman, and Antoni (2003) represent an example of research looking at the value of close relationships among people suffering from a specific illness, in this case, breast cancer.
Brady et al. (2009), King and Terrance (2006, 2008), Ueno (2005), and Way et al. (2001), for example, have looked at the health and well-being benefits of having friends during adolescence and young adulthood.
Longevity or living to a ripe old age is related to having close, satisfying friendships. This connection is supported very convincingly by the extensive work of Christakis and Fowler (2009) and Friedman and Martin (2011), but also by studies such as Aday, Kehoe, and Farney (2006), Berkman and Syme (1979), Giles et al. (2005), Holt-Lunstad, Smith, and Layton (2010), and Holt-Lunstad et al. (2007).
From a health and well-being perspective, which is more important, having lots of friends in our network or having just a few, very close and caring friends. My thinking about this controversy grew out of the following studies: Bagwell et al. (2005), Brady et al. (2009), Brissette, Scheier, and Carver (2002), Burleson (2003), Cohen et al. (1977), Denisson et al. (2008), Giles et al. (2005), Holt-Lunstad, Smith, and Layton (2010), Holt-Lunstad et al. (2007), King and Terrance (2006, 2008), Pinquart and Sörensen (2000), Requena (1995), Rook (1984, 1987), Rook and Ituarte (1999), Seeman and Berkman (1988), Stinson et al. (2008), Ueno (2005), and Winstead et al. (1995). The network studies by Christakis and Fowler (2009) and Friedman and Martin (2011) are also important to consider.
Writing this chapter was complicated by the fact that so much of the research looking at health benefits of our social relationships (both quantitative and qualitative aspects) doesn’t differentiate between friends versus family ties. This research has been helpful in understanding other issues such as network size and the complex connections that mediate relationship quality and health. Here are some good examples of this research: Berkman (1995), Berkman et al. (2000), Cohen (1988, 2004), House, Landis, and Umberson (1988), Mancini and Simon (1984), Pagel, Erdly, and Becker (1987), and Uchino (2004, 2009).
However, there also exists a fair amount of research that does make this comparison directly, and the vast majority of this work specifies the clear benefits of friendship over family relationships for physical and mental health as well as general wellbeing. Here are some examples: Dupertuis, Aldwin, and Bossé (2001), Ertel, Glymour, and Berkman (2009), Felton and Berry (1992), Giles et al. (2005), Kaniasty and Norris (1993), Larson and Bradney (1988), Larson, Mannell, and Zuzanek (1986), Pinquart and Sörensen (2000), Sherman, Landsford, and Volling (2006), Walen and Lachman (2000). These studies also serve as the sources for my statements later in the chapter about the contrasting roles that family and friends play in the well-being of the elderly.
The network research, such as Christakis and Fowler (2009), Giles et al. 2005, and Pinquart and Sörensen (2000), as well as work by sociologists such as Rook and Ituarte (1999) suggest that the positive effects that friends have on our health stems from the influence they exercise over our behavior, including such things as eating a healthy diet and getting adequate exercise.
The physiological and psychological mechanics of how our friends influence our health and wellbeing is evidenced in work like the following. Some of this research includes the intermediate role that self-esteem plays in this connection: Abe (2004), Brummett
et al. (2004), Christenfeld and Gerin (2000), Christenfeld et al. (1997), Cohen, Sherrod, and Clark (1986), Ertel, Glymour, and Berkman (2009), Hawkley et al. (2003), Holt- Lunstad et al. (2007), Jemmott and Magloire (1988), Orth-Gomér (2009), Schmitt and Allik (2005), and Stinson et al. (2008). The “many sides” of self-esteem are especially evident in Denissen et al. (2008).
The example of the adolescent who had just contracted diabetes, which contrasted the support given by family versus friends was taken from LaGreca et al. (1995). Miller, Notaro, and Zimmerman (2002) provide other data regarding the benefits of close friendships during adolescence.
Oishi and Schimmack (2010) have shown that extraverts are able to handle stress better than others. Von Dras and Siegler (1997) provided evidence that one can learn to become more sociable or “extroverted.” The Sheldon Cohen study I mention where volunteers are infected with cold viruses is Cohen et al. (1977).
The research on the downside of close relationships was conducted by Bert Uchino (2004, 2009) and colleagues, including Holt-Lunstad et al. (2007). Several of the citations above include measures of relationship quality and it is these measures that are related to the health benefits of close relationships, and from this, the inference can be drawn that those with unsatisfying friendships have more negative health outcomes. Some differences in relationship quality could also be a function of the beliefs we hold about relationships (Goodwin and Gaines, 2004). Cohen (2004) and Rook (1984) also showed that negative exchanges in close relationships are related to negative health outcomes. Adams and Blieszner (1998) explored factors associated with troubled friendships.
The closing anecdote about the California program in the 1980s entitled “Friends Can be Good Medicine” came from Hersey et al. (1984).
The study I referred to suggesting that it is even better to give than receive in a close friendship is Väänänen et al. (2005). Depner and Ingersoll-Dayton (1988) draw the same conclusion.
Although not cited for any of the specific issues above, in writing this chapter, I was also influenced by the following work: Argyle (2001), Blieszner (2006), Cadzow and Servoss (2009), Carbery and Buhrmester (1998), Davidson and Packard (1981), Dugan and Kivett (1998), Firestone, Firestone, and Catlett (2003), Morrison (2009), Pahl (2000), Sias and Bartoo (2007), and Waldinger and Schulz (2010).
Chapter Twelve: Mars, Venus and Planet Earth
Much has been written about gender differences in close relationships, to the point where it might seem like an overly exploited area of social research. Yet even today at relationship conferences, there are entire sessions with multiple presentations devoted to the topic. Perspectives on this issue run the entire gamut, from those who would say that any such gender differences are relatively insignificant and illusory to those who point out the pervasiveness of empirically established findings that demonstrate strong and consistent gender differences.
Writing this chapter, I must confess, was exceedingly difficult, and the end result clearly reflects my personal perspective on the literature, as well as the survey and
interview research I’ve done over the years asking men and women about their close friendships.
The research and writings of certain experts in this field have been especially influential in my thinking. Even though my conclusions differ significantly from hers, I especially found Beverly Fehr’s (1995, 2004) writings on this topic cogent and persuasive. Despite the fact that her 1995 book is a bit dated, I think her analysis of gender differences in friendship hold up quite well even today.
I’ve also found helpful the work of Bank and Hansford (2000), Burleson (1997, 2003), Carbery and Buhrmester (1998), Canary, Emmers-Sommer, Elkins and Peterson (1993), Grabill and Kerns (2000), and Faulkner (1997), Winstead, Derlega and Rose (1995), and Wright (1999).
The survey item I mention, requiring respondents to choose between “just talk” and “doing some activity” with a same-sex friend, was originated by Caldwell and Peplau (1982).
The “face-to-face” and “side-by-side” characterizations of women’s and men’s friendships was originated by Wright (1982), although it should be pointed out that in his later writings, he sounds much more like a Uniter rather than a Divider when it comes to gender differences in close friendships.
The idea that men tend to have their emotional needs met by their wives or other women in their lives, rather than their men friends, is supported by the work of Birditt and Antonucci (2007), Depner and Ingersoll-Dayton (1988), Proulx et al. (2009), and Rubin (1985). This work also explores the differing approaches to friendship of husbands and wives throughout the lifespan.
Abele (2003), Eun et al. (2004), Guimond et al. (2006), and Hussong (2000) have argued that much of the gender differences in close relationships are due to the differing social roles that men and women play in society. Rudman and Goodwin (2004) similarly argued that such differences are an outgrowth of our perceptual biases. Martin (1997) showed that we have consistent notions of normal conversations among male versus female friends.
The brief history of male friendships grew out of Epstein (2006) and McKay and McKay (2008).
My sources for cross-sex friendships are Bleske-Rechek et al. (2012), Koening, Kirkpatrack, and Ketelaar (2007), Monsour (2002), O’Meara (1989), Rawlins (2009), Rubin (1985), Schneider and Kenny (2000), Werking (1997), in addition to the work cited in Baumgarte (2002).
The influence of homophobia on men’s friendships has been theorized by many, and studied directly by Muraco (2005).
The statement that men are actually more competitive in their friendships compared to women was based on Singleton and Vacca (2007). The comments about gender differences in how we typically deal with conflict in close relationships were based on Cahn (1992) and Canary, Cupach, and Messman (1995).
With respect to the “catty-woman stereotype,” it is simply never mentioned in the major reviews of the research literature on friendship, such as Adams and Allan (1998), Blieszner and Adams (1992), Derlega and Winstead (1986), Fehr (1996),
Monsour (2002), O’Connor (1992), Pogrebin (1987), Rawlins (1992, 2009), Werking (1997), or Wright (1999).
My arguments for the Uniters perspective were influenced largely by the work of Canary, Emmers-Sommer, and Faulkner (1997), Fehr (1996), and Winstead, Derlega, and Rose (1997). Leaper et al. (1995) asked college students to talk with a friend about how their relationships with family members had changed since going away to college. Helgeson, Shaver and Dyer (1987) showed that men and women value the same elements in close friendships.
The description of men who enjoy highly satisfying friendships drew heavily from the work of Bank and Hansford (2000). The depiction of what it means for men to cultivate close friendship was inspired by Swain (1992) and Zaslow (2010), in addition to my own personal experiences.
My conclusions about gender differences and demographics are based primarily on my own interpretations of this research, but also on the writings of Ray Pahl (2000) and Rawlins (2009).
The grand study of 53 different nations and regions is Hofstede (1980).
The study that compares self-disclosure patterns in the U.S. and India is Berman, Murphy-Berman, and Pachauri (1988).
The work I did with Donna Webster Nelson on cross-sex friendships can be found at Baumgarte and Nelson (2009—also under the “Publications” link on this site).
Chapter Thirteen: What is real about virtual friendship?
The literature review presented in this chapter depended heavily on these three journals: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, Journal of Media Psychology. For a rather comprehensive list of references relevant to this topic, see www.danah.org.
For current usage data and other information regarding Facebook and other social media, see www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm, www.checkfacebook.com/, www.comscore.com, and www.pewinternet.org. The Pew reports I depended most heavily on were Hampton et al. (2009), Hampton et al. (2011), and Smith (2011a).
The opening anecdote about the convention put on by Blizzard Entertainment came from Schiesel (2011).
Donath (2008) and Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007) have shown that virtual social networks function very similarly to real-live social networks.
McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Brashears (2006) provide evidence that the core social networks of USAers have shrunk since 1985, especially when it comes to the number of close friends. The Pew research that extends and moderates these findings can be found at Hampton et al. (2009).
Many of the advantages I describe of being a Facebook user came from Hampton et al. (2011), Hampton et al. (2009), Mauri et al. (2011), and Vergeer and Pelzer (2009). According to Valenzuela, Park, and Kee (2009), Facebook use is associated with social trust, and political and civic engagement.
Boyd and Ellison (2007) have written an often-cited history of social media covering its evolution up to the year 2007.
Buffardi and Campbell (2008), and Muscanell and Guadagno (2012) have shown that heavy use of social networking sites is associated with higher levels of narcissism and extroversion.
The assertion that Facebook actually helps very socially oriented individuals become even more socially active is supported by Lee (2009) and Zywica and Danowski (2008). The latter study also supports the idea that Facebook helps shy people have more active social lives. In addition, Gray (2009) has shown that Facebook makes it a bit easier for young gays to come out publicly about their sexual orientation.
How USAers spend their time online is being monitored by the The Nielson Company (2010). The results of Smith (2011a) also provided evidence for the statements about how USAers use Facebook and other social media.
The conclusions about the role that Facebook does or does not play in promoting “like-minded isolationism” came from Hampton et al. (2009) and Hampton et al. (2011). These studies also support the idea that heavy users of Facebook tend to be more politically active. The characterizations of the networks of Facebook and Twitter users also came from this work, in addition to Smith (2011a).
With respect to the impressions we cultivate with online media, research by Grasmuck, Martin, and Zhao (2009) suggests that we feel free to allow our ethnicity to shine on Facebook. Tong et al. (2008) and Utz (2010) have shown that having too many or too few Facebook friends tends to give a negative impression to others. Rosenberg and Egbert (2011) also helped with my understanding of how we present ourselves on Facebook.
Some of the research and analyses of the negative sides of Facebook use including academic performance among college students came from Junco (2012) and Moreno et al. (2011). Sheldon, Abad, and Hinsch (2011) found that for some individuals, addiction to using Facebook resembles other forms of addiction. Moore and McElroy (2012) analyzed the phenomenon of regretting one’s postings on social media.
The assertions about the complicated connections between Facebook and the romantic relationships of users came from Elphinston and Noller (2011), and Utz and Beukeboom (2011).
The assertions about cyber bullying came primarily from an unattributed 2010 Time magazine article, Volume 176, Issue 16, p 60-63. In the three journals listed above, I found no articles focused on such bullying among adults beyond college students.
Cross-cultural comparisons of social networking sites were described by www.forester.com, Sengupta (2012), and Yang et al. (2011).
The descriptions of CyWorld, Korea’s primary social networking site, came from Hjorth (2007), Kim and Yun (2007), Kim, Sohn and Choi (2011), Lee (2011), and Lewis and George (2008).
Yang et al. (2011) have shown that people in India and China tend to use social networking sites as sources of information akin to the way people in more individualist cultures use search engines.
Perhaps more germane to the overall thrust of this chapter, many recent studies have shown that online relationships resemble those offline in many respects. Here is a sampling of studies that make these comparisons directly for various aspects of close relationships: Altschuller and Benbunan-Fich (2011), Amichai-Hamburger, Kingsbury and Schneider (2013), Baym et al. (2007), Chen, Sun, and Hsieh (2008), Gilbert, Murphy, and Ávalos (2011), Lomanowska and Guitton (2012), Ratan et al. (2011), Sibona and Walczak (2011), Walther (1996), Walther and Parks (2002), Wright, Rains, and Banas (2010).
Since computer mediated relationships often involve minimal visual cues, such as facial expressions, bodily mannerisms and other nonverbal cues, some of these references (especially Walther, 1996; Walther and Parks, 2002) also suggest that we tend to idealize these relationships. This tendency to idealize even applies to seeing our own images on Facebook (Gonzales and Hancock, 2011).
Green-Hamann, Campbell, Sherblom (2011), Stefanone and Jang (2007), and Wen et al. (2011) have shown that online support groups can be very effective in helping people facing similar life challenges such as cancer or addiction.
Deresiewicz (2009) has articulated my personal discomfort with Facebook much more eloquently than I ever could.
Chapter fourteen: Friends beyond borders
The assertion that we tend to befriend people who are quite similar to us comes from decades of social psychological research. This work as well as its broader context can be found in any social psychology textbook, such as Franzoi (2012) or Baron, Branscombe, and Byrne (2008). For a review of this research specific to friendship, see Deutsch et al. (1991).
Elisabeth Gareis (1995, 2000) has documented the complications and challenges that international students face when trying to befriend USAers. See also Kudo and Simkin (2003) and Trice and Elliott (1993) for other examples.
Althen and Bennett (2011) provide an example of what international student advisors tell incoming students about what to expect from USAers with regard to friendship with USAers. Here are two examples of studies demonstrating the benefits of cross- cultural friendships: Lee (2006) and Page-Gould, Mendoza-Denton, and Tropp (2008).
Joseph Epstein (2006) has argued persuasively that idealized notions of friendship can be counterproductive.
Friendships between men and women do face clear and pervasive social challenges as outlined by Baumgarte (2002) and O’Meara (1989, 1994). With respect to cross-gender friendships, see also Monsour (2002), Rubin (1985), and Werking (1997).
The idea that young people are more open to social diversity in their networks comes from Rawlins (2009) and from an analysis of generational changes in values by Inglehart and Welzel (2005).
Comments about male friendships were derived from my own unpublished cross- sectional (age comparison) studies and the work of Birditt and Antonucci (2007).
Tognoli (1980) is often cited for using the term “impoverished” to describe the friendships of some men.
Pahl (2000) and Allan (1998b) have argued that friendships have been increasing in their importance in people’s lives, rather than decreasing.
Appendix: Odysseys in methodologies
For anyone interested in the worldwide trends in the evolution of national cultures as documented by the World Values Survey, I highly recommend Norris and Inglehart (2011) and Inglehart and Welzel (2005). For a shorter version, see Welzel and Inglehart (2008).
Hecht, Collier, and Ribeau (1993), Henderson (1999), Kochman (1983), and White (1984) have each documented insightful cultural differences between African Americans versus European Americans in the U.S.
An excellent book on the methodological considerations of doing cross-cultural research is van de Vijver and Leung (1997). When I first became interested in doing cross-cultural research, I was guided by Brislin, Lonner, and Thorndike (1973) and Lonner and Berry (1986). For beginning students in this field, I can recommend Matsumodo and van de Vijver (2010). Heine et al. (2002) have analyzed the use of rating scales across cultures. Goodwin (1998) provides an excellent example of the methodological as well as the practical and political challenges of doing cross-cultural relationship research.
For research on language issues in cross-cultural research, see Zhang and Nisbitt (2004). For an interesting analysis of translating the simple phrase “I love you,” see Gareis and Wilkins (2011a, 2011b).
Lillian Rubin (1985) included both parties for the cross-gender friendships in her study, and one interesting result was that such relationships aren’t always reciprocal—on occasion, men saw it as a close friendship while the women didn’t.
Leung and Bond (1989) and Smith (2011b) provide a rationale for how to deal with cultural response biases with respect to how people in various cultures respond to a seven-point scale.