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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Friendship is a relationship that can endure across the entire lifespan, serving a vital role for sustaining social connectedness in late life when other relationships may become unavailable.
This article begins with a description of the importance of studying friendship in late life and the benefits of friendship for older adults, pointing to the value of additional research for enhancing 2014 friend needed about this crucial bond. Next is discussion of theoretical approaches for conceptualizing friendship research, followed by identification of emerging areas of late-life friendship research and novel questions that investigators could explore fruitfully.
We include a presentation of innovative research methods and existing national and international data sets that can advance late-life friendship research using large samples and cross-national comparisons. The final section advocates for development and assessment of interventions aimed at improving friendship and reducing social isolation 2014 friend needed older adults.
Social isolation places older adults in jeopardy for both poor health and low psychological well-being. Detailed research findings on crucial elements of friendship in late life can inform the de of social interventions aimed at enhancing personal skills and strategies for making and keeping friends, planning of community programs to foster friend interactions and advocacy for policies that promote rather than interfere with late-life friendship.
Friendship is a relationship that can endure across the entire life span, serving a vital role for sustaining social connectedness in late life when other relationships, such as with coworkers and organization members, may be relinquished.
Early empirical studies of social relationships, including those in late adulthood, generally did not focus on friendship per se, so this nuanced awareness of friendship is a recent phenomenon. Although it is clear that friendship has long been an important part of social life and important to well-being, this close relationship has not received nearly as much attention historically as family ties. In fact, in s and s when sociologists and family scientists examined close relationships, they tended to investigate marital and kin bonds, but typically did not include friends in their studies.
Not until s and s did scholars begin to probe friendship as a social role in its own right, separate from ties with colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and other nonkin, and to study friendship as a relationship rather than friendliness as an individual attribute.
Of course, the closeness of both relatives and friends varies, so studies examining specific relationships as opposed to global are especially helpful for understanding the relative impact of family members versus friends on well-being in the later years. For example, analyses by Lee and Szinovacz of 6, participants in the Health and Retirement study showed that although relationships with spouses tended to have the strongest association with mental health, ties with friends showed stronger associations with mental health than those with other relatives.
such as these suggest the merits of investigations specifically addressing friendship and specifically focusing on old age. Along with investigation of structural aspects of friendship, such as friend roles and interaction frequency, came awareness of the need to examine friendship in the context of social networks; to view friendship as evolving over the life course and proceeding through phases over time; and to assess cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes as dynamic aspects of friend interactions. As a result, research on friendship has flourished in recent decades, including studies of friendship in middle-age and beyond, yielding a wide-ranging literature on both traditional e.
Indeed, exchanging many forms of social support is one of the most important benefits of friendship in the second half of life. The advantages of late adulthood friendship reach beyond psychological well-being. Moreover, old age poses unique challenges, including health changes that might require assistance or caregiving. Thus, it is particularly important to study old age friendships, especially for those without family members, without proximal family members, or without family members willing to care for them.
Although we can point to extensive evidence on the importance and benefits of friendship, unexplored research questions about friendship across the adult years abound. Key purposes of this article are to provide a comprehensive yet flexible conceptual framework to guide research on late-life friendship, synthesize 2014 friend needed one framework the multiple aspects of friendship and its predictors suggested by various theoretical approaches, point to unanswered questions and useful research methods, and suggest friendship-related interventions that could successfully enhance experiences of friend partners in their special bonds.
Our goal is to encourage scholars to study this rich and fascinating dimension of aging and engage in relevant translational science to sustain and enhance the quality of life for all elders. We begin with an examination of theories for investigating friendship. Although many theories of interpersonal attraction and relationship development could inform late-life friendship research, relatively few have guided these investigations. Social network theory, which focuses on predictors of the structure of relationships rather than on their dynamics, is relevant to understanding friendship opportunities and constraints at any stage of life.
Relatively little is known about structural features of friendship dy and networks, though, because empirical studies guided by 2014 friend needed network theory usually have not distinguished between friends and other close ties. Nevertheless, some research on structural features of late-life friendship exists. For example, Adams studied changes in the friend networks of old women over 3 years and found interesting patterns of both expansion and contraction not only contraction of the network membership and also intensification and weakening not only weakening of emotional bonds among friends in the network.
Looking at additional structural features of late-life close friend networks, such as similarity of gender, race, religion, age, and extent of influence on the friend, Adams and Torr found variation in friend networks of both older women and men based on characteristics of the social and cultural environments in which the networks were embedded. This finding shows that friend bonds are affected not only by personal choice, but also by external influences. Thus, investigations of structural features of friend networks reveal the range of similarities and differences across groups of older adults based on cultural contexts, personal characteristics, and situational features of interactions with current or potential friends.
Social exchange theory, the convoy model of relationships, and socioemotional selectivity theory have been the most common guides for research on the processes of friendship development and sustainment.
Early studies of friendship dynamics in old age were grounded in social exchange theory e. Li, Fok, and Fung examined age group differences in the association between emotional and instrumental support balance in relation to support received from friends versus family, and the implications for life satisfaction. Friendships were evaluated by older and younger adults as more reciprocal than family ties, in keeping with the more voluntary nature of friendship.
2014 friend needed general assumption that equity in exchanges is preferable did not apply to the older adults in this study, reflecting the premises of socioemotional selectivity theory, discussed later. Using the convoy model, Piercy and Cheek investigated friendships among middle-aged and older women who belonged to quilting bees and guilds.
Levitt, Weber, and Guacci examined social support e. The mothers and grandmothers tended to report fewer friends than relatives in their networks and to receive less support from friends as compared with the youngest women. This pattern held across cultures, as both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking women reported similar network structures and sources of support.
This theory proposes changes in social interactions as older adults perceive their remaining lifetime becoming shorter. Specifically, old people adapt to their changing circumstances by reserving their emotional energy for their most important relationships, shedding those with less meaning and value. Sander, 2014 friend needed, and Richter found support for this theory in a study of German adults aged 17— Across age groups, the frequency of face-to-face contacts with relatives was similar, but such interactions with friends and others decreased in frequency.
The study by Li and colleagues described ly also confirmed socioemotional selectivity theory, with findings suggesting that older persons in the study had higher life satisfaction in the context of nonreciprocal emotional support, probably because they prioritize emotionally meaningful exchanges over other interactions. Social network theory highlights the value of examining structural features of friendship, how they influence formation and retention of friendships, and whether those features change over time. Social exchange, convoy, and socioemotional selectivity theories share similar foci on availability and reciprocity of support in friendship and other close relationships.
They point to numerous individual, interpersonal, and interactional characteristics that can have an impact on friend relationships and outcomes. Propositions and hypotheses from the focal theory can be formulated around the concepts and variables identified in the friendship framework. As shown in Figure 1the integrative friendship framework posits a series of reciprocal influences on friend partners that affect their typical modes of interacting and hence, their emergent and ongoing interaction patterns. The gray box and arrows ify that friendship patterns are dynamic and contextualized in time and space and across cultures; the dashed lines ify that individuals, friend dy, and friend networks embedded in these contexts affect them and are affected by them.
That is, propensities emerging from socialization experiences and personality affect how a person internalizes expectations associated with specific social locations, and social locations affect how a person interprets friendship-related opportunities and constraints.
These personal characteristics lead to choices about where to spend time and how and when to interact with friends, as well as ways of thinking and feeling about friends and friendship, ified as interactive motifs and depicted in the middle of the figure. Cognitive, affective, and behavioral interactive motifs thus affect the friendship patterns right panel that occur between friend pairs and in larger friend networks in which the pairs are embedded. For either friend dy or friend networks, internal structural features homogeneity and hierarchy in dy; size, density, homogeneity, and hierarchy in networks facilitate and constrain 2014 friend needed processes cognitive, affective, behavioralwhich in turn modify or sustain the internal structural features.
Integrative conceptual framework for friendship research. Friendships are not static, so Figure 2 demonstrates that the patterns exhibited in Figure 1 occur across the phases of friendship formation, sustainment, and dissolution.
Use of the term phases avoids the notion of unidirectional stages of relationships, which does not apply well to friendship. Rather, movement across phases of friendship is fluid and potentially bidirectional. For example, an incipient friendship might wax and 2014 friend needed in the formation phase before becoming solidified as an ongoing friendship, or a dissolved friendship might be d later.
Within any of the phases, closeness and other process aspects could increase, decrease, or remain stable. Finally, transitions across phases are influenced by internal structural features and interactive processes. The most common structural dimensions examined to date are friendship network size and frequency of contact which is merely a proxy for interactive processes, revealing existence of connections, but nothing about the type or quality of the interactions.
The typical interactive dimensions appearing in late-life friendship research are behavioral processes, such as provision of instrumental, emotional, and social support. Few investigators have examined the phases of friendship in late life intentionally and systematically.
Examples of research investigating structural aspects of friendship appear in the meta-analysis of social network size by Wrzus and colleagues described ly. They found reliable cross-cultural evidence that friendship networks decrease in size across the years of adulthood. Social structural position includes age group, and Wrzus and colleagues noted that both normative and nonnormative life events occurring at different ages have an impact on the friend network as needs, other relationships, and life circumstances modulate social interactions.
Indeed, Litwin and Shiovitz-Ezra found that being embedded in friend-focused networks was a protective factor against mortality risk for older adults and de Vries, Utz, Caserta, and Lund found that friends were 2014 friend needed helpful in providing social support and assistance in early widowhood. Focusing on psychological disposition, Lecce and colleagues showed that individual differences in theory of mind skills extent of awareness that thoughts, beliefs, and emotions affect social interactions were associated with differences in friend but not family ties among older adults in Italy.
Moreover, this theory of mind effect was moderated by social motivation in this study, the importance of being liked by otherssuch that it occurred only for those who had a high or medium level of social motivation.
Thus, understanding others and being motivated to use social skills to foster positive relationships influence friendship outcomes. Thus, these findings showed that a personal attribute influenced cognitive, behavioral, and affective friendship processes, respectively over time. Research on friendship phases as depicted in Figure 2 —how older adults form, sustain, and dissolve friendships—is scarce. Piercy and Cheek noted that quilting provided a context 2014 friend needed older women to make new friends and Menkin and colleagues noted existence of new friends, but these researchers did not delve into aspects of interaction that contributed to older adults moving from being acquaintances to being friends.
Insight into this phase transition comes from Blieszner and Shea and colleagues who reported on friendship initiation over 5 months among strangers who relocated simultaneously to a newly constructed retirement community. Key contributors to initiation phase transitions involved changes in feelings and activities. Spending time together in mutually appealing activities increased feelings of liking, loving, and commitment to the friendship.
These affective processes built trust and promoted ongoing exchanges of social and instrumental support. Another example of activities and feelings that sustain friendship comes from a study of old male veterans by Elder and Clipp They discovered that the process of veterans sharing memories of their intense combat experiences and losses with veteran friends served to perpetuate these very long-term friendships.
As these research examples show, structural, cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of friendship interactions all came into play in the formation, sustainment, and dissolution phases of friendship. The literature also contains studies relevant to the integrative friendship framework that address multiple dimensions simultaneously.2014 friend needed
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