Stages and Types of Friendships

Unlike "love at first sight," friendships tend to develop gradually over time. Newman (1982) describes the growth of friendships as occurring in three stages. The first stage is characterized by the mutual awareness of two persons. In most cases, social interaction goes no further than this. If it does, then a second stage, in which surface contact is made, ensues. The behavior of the two parties at this stage is governed by social norms, and little self-disclosure takes place. With the beginning of self-disclosure, the relationship moves into a third and final stage, mutuality, marking the transition to bona fide friendship. Then, sincerity, emotional support, and other behaviors and feelings that are associated with close friendships begin to emerge.

Newman's three-stage theory is a description of the development of deep friendships, which go beyond the more superficial interest-related friendships based on similarity of lifestyles or interests (Keith, Hill, Goudy, &

Powers, 1984). Deep friendships typically occur much less frequently than interest-related friendships.

The types of friendships preferred and cultivated vary from person to person. For example, Matthews (1986) describes three basic friendship styles that are dependent on individual personality. Adults who prefer an independent style of friendship, who constituted 20% of the sample, had neither best friends nor close friends. They were willing to share good times with other people, but they preferred to remain self-sufficient and maintain a certain psychological distance between themselves and others. A second, discerning style of friendship is cultivated by a second group of adults identified by Matthews. These individuals, who comprised 13% of the same, had a small number of friends to whom they were close and considered very important. The largest group (67%) of adults in the sample consisted of those who had developed an acquisitive or gregarious style of friendship. This style was characterized by close relationships with a fairly large number of people.

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