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Definition And Characteristics, Benefits Of Friendship, Voluntariness And Contextual Factors In Friendship, Friendships Throughout Childhood

Friendship is a relationship with broad, ambiguous, and even shifting boundaries. The terms friend and friendship mean different things to different people and different things to the same people at different times. To think and communicate effectively about the topic, people find it necessary to use distinctions such as true friends, best friends, good friends, casual friends, work friends, social friends, and friendly acquaintances. In spite of friendship's vague and seemingly indefinable quality, friendships contribute in important ways to psychological development and health and well-being from early childhood through the older adult years.

Social and behavioral scientists devoted little attention to friendship prior to the late 1960s. Since that time, however, friendship has become one of the more favored topics among relationship scholars. The study of friendship is interdisciplinary in nature, concerning researchers from various sub-fields within psychology as well as sociology, communications, anthropology, social work, family studies, and psychiatry. It is also international in scope with researchers from many parts of the world making significant contributions to the empirical and theoretical literature. In terms of the sheer number of scholars focusing their work on friendship, countries from North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East (primarily Israel) are especially well represented. Cross-cultural research is common, especially with respect to comparative studies of children's friendships (Schneider et al. 1997). In spite of this disciplinary, geographic, and cultural variety, there is a remarkable degree of agreement about the fundamental meaning of friendship and in documenting its importance.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationships