Friendship relationships play a fundamental role in our lives. We are all concerned to have bonds of affection and trust. We need others to grow and live a good life. But what is friendship really about? How do these relationships evolve during life stages?
Friendship is an affective relationship based on the trust and compromise of Sternberg's theory. On the other hand, there is a very wide diversity regarding the vision of individuals about friendship relationships. This is due to the constructive factors existing around this concept. The subjectivity of each person largely influences opinion, altering the criteria that define friendship.
In general, for adults a relationship of friendship is not a one-way relationship, but rather a two-way relationship. Friendship involves mutual psychological satisfaction characterized by an understanding of each person's feelings and thoughts. On the other hand, during childhood we observe very different friendships. Below, we explain how friendship relationships evolve over the course of life.
Development of friendship relations
According to Damon and Fuentes, friendship has different stages, each of which has specific characteristics.
Friendship relationships during childhood
We are talking about the stage taking place between 0 and 2 years old. During this stage, it is difficult to speak of friendship in the strict sense but we face the first approximations of social life. Studies tell us that young children initiate and maintain more interactions with people they know than with those they do not know. This preference assumes the acquisition of trust in those whom they identify as known.
In addition, children prefer to have relationships with people with whom they have had pleasant experiences rather than with people who have generated conflict. So, we could speak of a beginning of relations of friendship in which the child chooses those with whom he wishes to maintain the exchange of play and to show positive affection.
Friendship relationships during preschool
The preschool stage is between 2 and 6 years, just before starting primary school. In this age group, children present an egocentric vision when understanding and analyzing friendship relationships. They do not distinguish their own perspective from those of others because a theory of mind has not yet developed.
In fact, these relationships of friendship are characterized by unstable encounters where the break comes with ease especially when there are interpersonal conflicts. Generally, children are friends with relatives they live with or classmates. In summary, they are unstable relationships based on proximity and largely directed and controlled by parents or caregivers.
Friendship relations during the school stage
This evolutionary stage begins when the child enters primary school and lasts until adolescence, between 6 and 12 years old. These friendships are characterized by the maintenance of a relationship of cooperation and mutual help.
At this age, children begin to understand others, gradually giving up their egocentric vision of friendship. On the other hand, they choose people who show them affection and who are concerned about their needs and their demands.
At this stage, the concept of friendship is closer to the vision of friendship that the majority of adults have. Relationships are of a more lasting character. If they stay until adolescence they can create a close and very affectionate bond.
Friendship relationships during adolescence
This period starts at age 12 and lasts until age 18. Relationships of friendship are conceived as adults. Teens consider friendship as a lasting relationship based on mutual knowledge and where affect plays a key role.
During this stage, friendship relationships become much deeper, expressing values of loyalty, trust, intimacy and sincerity. Friends are chosen according to their psychological characteristics and similar interests and passions.
From adolescence, friendships are enriched by the multitude of lived experiences. Distance and occasional conflicts cease to be an obstacle to maintaining and benefiting from the emotional bond created.
According to this classification, friendship relations change with the passage of time, influenced by the evolutionary development of the individual. Also we can not forget that friendship is a subjective concept that each person built taking into account different variables. The important thing is to understand what friendship is for each of us in order to have adequate and satisfying relationships.