However, we need to sceptical about some of the positive outcomes associated with friendships and socialising quoted above. There are several reasons why we should be cautious about accepting them at face value. First, we need to be critical about the term friendship itself. This is because not all friendships are close, supporting social networks. Sometimes our friends, or those we socialise with, can be the cause of antisocial behaviours and later problems. It was suggested earlier that fear of rejection may explain why people many confirm to bad behaviours. Friendships can thus been seen as ‘mixed blessing’ (1). This is because, good friends are there to support us through developmental challenges, provide social support and general companionship while unsupportive friends, may be feared and given liberty to dictate our behaviours. One could therefore conclude that it is “the quality… of friendship that makes for true happiness and well-being” (2).
The second reason why we should not easily accept the assumption that friendships only lead to positive outcomes, relates to the manner in which research in this area is conducted. The biggest problem with research on the benefits of friendships is that most findings come from correlation studies. These present a chicken and egg problem, meaning that researchers are not able to answer the question of what causes what with certainty (Is it having friends that makes people happier and gives them confidence or are happy people finding it easier to make friends)? The latter would mean that people are happy or unhappy to begin with.
Despite the above limitations, some are convinced of the positive correlation between friendships and positive outcomes that he has proposed the introduction of a course on friendship in the academic curriculum (3). He believes that this would change the way young people act towards others particularly those that may appear to behave differently.
In general, many theorists are in agreement that having friends means that we have someone to confide in and also a companion with whom to share different experiences (4). This makes most life experiences more enjoyable, meaningful and positive (5). Even a simple activity such as watching television is undoubtedly more entertaining if it is watched with a friend. Having strong social ties is believed to prevent loneliness, a social ill that is associated with depression, proneness to mental illnesses and negatively correlated with poor social outcomes depression.
(1). Hartup, W. W., & Stevens, N. (1997). Friends and Adaptation in the Life Course. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 355-370, (Pp: 363)
(12). Haworth, J. & Hart, G. (2007). Well-Being: Individual, Community and Social Perspectives. New York, N.Y., Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 261.
(13). Haworth, J. & Hart, G. (2007). Well-Being: Individual, Community and Social Perspectives. New York, N.Y., Palgrave Macmillan.
(14). Hartup, W. W., & Stevens, N. (1997). Friends and Adaptation in the Life Course. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 355-370.
(15). Ben-Shahar, T. (2007). Happier. McGraw-Hill.