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Cultural patterns of Friendship and adolescent competencies

March 13, 2013

I’ve mentioned this article before, but am reading it again (it’s really good), so going to pull out some bits that strike me as relevant to adolescent fiction (the whole article is, really)…

Daniel Hruschka explains: “Expectations of friends are significantly shaped by cultural norms and values (Bell and Coleman 1999; Hruschka 2006; Keller 2004;Wierzbicka 1997). At the same time, partners in a friendship are also responsible for negotiating, maintaining, and regulating the relationship, and there is a great deal of leeway in how cultural models of friendship are instantiated among particular pairs of friends (Paine 1969; Suttles 1970).” (p.208)

“In conversations and formal interviews with high school students during a year of fieldwork (see methods section below) I found that models for friendship among U.S. high school students come into play during daily interaction in a number of important ways. First, they provided rough guidelines for behavior toward friends (e.g., ‘‘I shouldn’t talk behind his back’’ and ‘‘I should take some time to make her feel better’’). Second, they constituted a set of expectations for assessing satisfaction with a particular relationship and for deciding when to confront a misbehaving friend (e.g., ‘‘I enjoy being around her’’ vs. ‘‘He ditched me again’’ or ‘‘She won’t stop talking about herself.’’). Third, they gave benchmarks for deciding whether to cultivate a friendship with particular partners (e.g., ‘‘She’s easy to talk to,’’ ‘‘He doesn’t seem that trustworthy,’’ and ‘‘I think she’s really annoying’’). For these reasons, models for friendship played an important role in determining how friends behaved toward each other and addressed inappropriate actions, which pairs cultivated friendships, and which partners ultimately stayed together. Students clearly articulated how these expectations played a part in the cultivation and decline of friendships.” (p.209)

“Taken as a whole, student interviews revealed a broadly shared model of appropriate friendship behaviors. Notably, friends should be there for each other in times of need, they should be fun to be around, they should want to hang out and do things together, they should be able to talk to each other about deeply held personal issues, they should be sensitive to each other’s personal problems and concerns, and they should be able to tease and criticize each other as long as they do so without malicious intent.

Rarely was it possible, however, to cultivate relationships in which all of these different expectations were realized, and students often differed on which of these expectations were more important than others. Some students emphasized the importance of loyalty and support in their friendships, such as the student who dropped friends who did not provide adequate support during a family tragedy. Others focused on the ability to confide in a friend, and others valued the fun and stimulating companionships they had with good friends.” (p.209)

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)

Reference is to:  Bell, Sandra, and Simon Coleman, eds. 1999 The Anthropology of Friendship. Oxford: Berg.

Hruschka, Daniel J. 2006 The Diverse Functions of Friendship. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Emory University.

Keller, Monika 2004 A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Friendship Research. ISSBD Newsletter 46(2): 10–14.

Paine, Robert 1969 In Search of Friendship: An Exploratory Analysis in Middle-Class Culture. Man (n.s.) 4(4): 505–524.

Suttles, Gerald D. 1970 Friendship as a Social Institution. In Social Relationships. George J. McCall, ed. Pp. 95–135. Chicago: Aldine de Gruyter.

Wierzbicka, Anna 1997 Patterns of ‘‘Friendship’’ across Cultures. In Understanding Cultures through Their Key Words. Anna Weirzbicka, ed. Pp. 32–124. New York: Oxford University Press.


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