By providing emotional and material support, entertainment, information, and serving as a sounding board for our ideas and feelings, friends make us feel good and increase our level of satisfaction with the world and our place in it. In fact, the extent to which people are satisfied with their lives in general can be predicted more accurately from friendships than from family relationships (Aizenberg & Treas, 1985). Complete honesty and self-disclosure between parents and children are often discouraged by the duties and obligations of the parent—child bond, whereas intimacy is crucial to the survival of close friendships. Furthermore, we choose our own friends, but we have no voice in the selection of our relatives.
In times of personal crises precipitated by the loss of a loved one, health problems, or other sources of emotional stress, friends can help cushion the shock and assist us in coping and rehabilitating ourselves. In contrast, a lack of friendships and other positive social relationships is associated with psychological problems and disorders, low academic achievement, and a lack of job success (Levinson, 1986; Sarason, Sarason, & Pierce, 1989). Friendships are related not only to psychological well-being but also to physical health (Crohan & Antonucci, 1989). For example, having more friends and social contacts has been found to be associated with lower mortality rates (Hirsch, 1981; House et al., 1982; McKinlay, 1981) and even reduced susceptibility to the common cold (Cohen et al., 1997).
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