We may have heard of how individuals are the average of the five people they spend the most time with. Indeed, most people have friends, but have you considered how greatly your friendships can shape who you are as a person?
In fact, friendship bonds can be so crucial that disrupting them can lead to health problems. People with difficulties forming or maintaining friendships may develop neuropsychiatric disorders like depression.
This International Friendship Day, we discuss the psychological aspects of friendship and its impacts.
Source: Helm (2005), Brent et al., (2014)
Is friendship really important?
In the past, friendship was deemed a human construct outside the realm of biology. However, recent research has shown that beneath social interactions, there are neural and physiological mechanisms as well.
Friends can boost our financial success, health, and even survival. Social exclusion and the loss of social partners can be compared to feelings of physical pain. A lack of the ability or motivation to form and maintain friendly relationships can be seen as a symptom of depression.
Source: Brent et al. (2014)
Why should we risk being vulnerable to people?
Why should we invest precious time, energy, and resources in a friend instead of ourselves?
Studies show that what makes friendship worthwhile to a person is that it can make us “feel more alive” and that it is “life enhancing”. High quality friendships can also promote one’s self esteem
According to Aristotle, it is only through friendship that one can accurately evaluate one’s own life. This is because we may be prone to self-deception, and friends can help act as a mirror of one’s self.
Source: Helm (2005)
The social and moral value of friendship
Friendship promotes the general good by providing a degree of consideration for others’ welfare.
It can be a important source of moral excellence, because it involves acting for the sake of your friend, an action that has considerable moral worth.
Good friends do not blindly allow nor join friends in embarking on immoral actions. Instead, good friends ought to stop friends from committing unethical actions, or at least question friends if they are doing the right thing or not.
As friendship also involves the mutual support of unconventional values, this can lead to moral progress within a community.
Source: Helm (2005)
Do you have high quality friendships?
How should we assess whether the friendships we have are quality friendships or not? Researchers defined a few hallmarks of positive friendships, such as prosocial behavior, self-esteem support, intimacy, and loyalty. In particular, personal disclosure is a feature of an intimate relationship.
In children, high quality friendships may enhance their development regardless of the characteristics of their friends. Both adults and children also agree that good friends praise each other’s successes and encourage each other after failures, hence bolstering each other’s self-esteem.
Source: Berndt (2009)
When does friendship turn toxic?
Even the most solid of friendships can have negative traits. If your friends try to boss you around, dominate you, try to prove that they are better than you, or engage in rivalry, take heed to these red flags.
Particularly in female adolescents, low quality friendships are associated with disordered eating , as peers may be risk factors for body dissatisfaction and eating pathology.
Source: Berndt (2002) Sharpe et al., (2013)
Ultimately, when evaluating the quality of a friendship, we ought to consider both the positive and negative features. All friendships have ups and downs, and with wisdom and maturity, we can learn how to manage our peer relations for a richer life.
Cheers to good friends who uplift and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves!