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Dyadic norms of friendship

December 3, 2012

I really enjoyed this article – and see in it plenty of material to build an analysis out of that would be relevant to YA literature…

Abstract Cultural competence is often defined as the ability to adhere to a core set of beliefs and practices. In this article, I argue that in many cases competence also involves the creative and occasionally idiosyncratic use of conventional knowledge to meet both personal goals and the specific requirements of local relationships and settings. I illustrate this tension between adopting broadly shared cultural norms and adapting them to local circumstances by examining how U.S. high school students prioritize their expectations of ‘good friends.’ Drawing from cultural consensus approaches in cognitive anthropology, I analyze patterns of agreement among students to show that despite some population-wide sharing, friends share more similar priorities than do nonfriends, and individuals also maintain stable differences in their personal priorities. These patterns of agreement and disagreement support the view that individuals strike a balance between fitting their personal models of friendship to broad cultural norms and accommodating the goals and needs of particular partners. More generally, I argue that competence in a cultural domain (in this case appropriate friendship behaviors) must be examined in relation to the specific contexts of use and the scale of social interaction for that domain.” (p.205)

Hruschka “argue[s] that being a good, or competent, friend among …the] U.S. high school students [of his study] is based on a subtle interplay of three pressures: (1) to approximate a basic cultural form, (2) to fit one’s personal needs, and (3) to fit the expectations of one’s particular friends.” (p.210)

“In the case of friendship,” Hruschka writes, “a broadly shared model supplies a framework for beginning relationships with relative [-p.218] strangers and communicating about one’s relationships with others. Indeed, students agreed on the broad set of behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate among friends.  At the same time, each particular relationship must satisfy individual goals and needs that often require elaborations or revisions of general models of friendship. Thus, variation in students’ emphasis on fun and excitement, loyalty, or intimate communication reflects the push and pull of general cultural norms, the coordinative needs of specific dyads, and the goals, preferences, and life circumstances of partners.” (pp.217-218)

Ref: Daniel Hruschka (2009) Defining Cultural Competence in Context: Dyadic Norms of Friendship Among U.S. High School Students ETHOS: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 37(2), pp.205-224 (ISSN: 0091-2131, online ISSN: 1548-1352)

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