New Study Examines Helpfulness of Fair-Weather Friends

Friendships fluctuate by age, gender, context, purpose, and even the seasons of life. When people are starting families, they may have close friendships that include other young families with children. Colleagues may share the common bond of career interests. And spouses, partners, and extended family members may experience varying levels of social support and closeness over time. Regardless of the tone of a friendship, when someone is in need, he or she often turns to a friend for emotional and physical support. But until now, there have been few attempts made to better understand the influence of these relationships on overall well-being. To address this issue, Kira S. Birditt of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan led a study that looked at how social support was delivered during especially stressful life events.

Birditt chose to focus on middle-aged participants because it is during this time that people face many difficult transitions, such as children leaving home, losing spouses, health issues, or retirement. Birditt assessed how friends of 152 participants responded, emotionally and instrumentally, in times of extreme and moderate stress. She found that the nature of the friendship directly predicted the level of enacted support. Specifically, close friends provided high levels of both emotional and instrumental support regardless of the severity of the stressful event, while less intimate friends did not. However, those who were less close did come through during highly stressful events. Birditt believes that strained friendships or family relationships may be called upon only when the need is extremely urgent. “Thus, it appears that individuals can rely on their lower quality ties for their support needs when they are under extreme stress but not under all circumstances (i.e., under conditions of lower stress),” she said. But close friendships, those with high levels of positivity and few negative aspects, are readily accessible and available whether the need is small or large.

In sum, the results of this study clearly show each friendship comes with its own set of unique benefits. For middle to older adults, having a social network that can provide support is critical. Although this study included individuals under extreme stress and often with co-morbid conditions, including depression, it shows the importance of having friends in times of need. Birditt hopes future work will examine the long-term effects of these relationships and how enacted support is offered under other types of stressful conditions.

Reference:
Birditt, Kira S., Toni C. Antonucci, and Lauren Tighe. Enacted support during stressful life events in middle and older adulthood: An examination of the interpersonal context. Psychology and Aging 27.3 (2012): 728-41. Print.

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  • paris

    paris

    October 26th, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    friends can be a great outlet and support system in times of need.and those that stick with you at bad times are the ones to keep.although certain people may come forward in extreme conditions I would not be comfortable receiving any help from them.close friends are what are best for me.

  • debbie

    debbie

    October 27th, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    I have enough friends of the fair weather variety
    I need ones who will stick with me through thisck and thin and sometimes that is tough unless you are that frined who can ntale the good times with the bad

  • curtis

    curtis

    October 27th, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    I guess that I never gav that much thought to the importance of having good friends in my life until I lost my parents and it was then that I realized what a strong impact that these people made on me. I no longer had my family to turn to for support so I had to turn to my friends and that has given me a new lease on life. They have all been there for me at times when I don’t know what I would have done without them. It makes me more thankful every day to know that I have people who actually care about me and my well being, which was something that I have not always known.

  • Katlyn

    Katlyn

    October 27th, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    I have many many friends but I know who the real tight ones are.They have been with me for a very long time and I know they will be there for me not matter what comes up.The rest are there yeah but I wouldn’t count on them.There is always such levels and circles-inner and outer-and the bond and helpfulness varies accordingly too.

  • madyson moore

    madyson moore

    October 27th, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    its great to have a trustworthy friend I can lean on it times of need.much better than the many ‘friends’ that will only stick when times are good.one true friend is more precious than a hundred that are not very ‘true’.

  • Chloe

    Chloe

    October 27th, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    A friend in need is a friend indeed. But not everybody can be a friend in need. The world would be a much better place otherwise. Now we don’t want that do we?! *sarcasm*

  • Leslie

    Leslie

    October 28th, 2012 at 4:53 AM

    Of course, family is family and in most cases they will be there for you when you need it, whether the need is great or small. But it is noce to have someone else who is just like that who is not family, who is that friend that you can call on when you need something that a family member may not be able to provide. Sometimes the family member could be unavailable to help because they may also be close to a loss or a tragedy that you are also experiencing, so it is better to have someone who can be a little better removed from the situation that you can call upon to offer you support and love.

  • IAN

    IAN

    October 28th, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    Fair-weather friends are not very helpful and I think all of us know that.They will hang out at times and are there for a party but you cannot rely on them to come to your aid.Everybody has such friends and i don’t see anything wrong in it.As long as someone does not ASSUME everybody is a true friend this arrangement is not too bad,its not like cheating.

  • delbert

    delbert

    October 28th, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    while different levels of trustworthiness and dept of friendship have always existed,what has now happened is that you cannot actually count on anybody anymore.people you trust may not be there to back you up the next time you need them.you may think they are your best friends but you never know what’s on their mind.far too many people become friends to gain something,if they are to benefit from the friendship.

    having been bitten by this earlier,I would urge one and all to take precaution when it comes to friend.there’s no real concern even in the seemingly close friends out there.

  • joe

    joe

    October 28th, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    it is better to not expected and then maybe pleasantly surprised,rather than to expect and be disappointed.especially so with the degradation of ethics in most people.

  • EthaN

    EthaN

    October 29th, 2012 at 3:58 AM

    Have to suppose that friends and having friends helps you remember that there is support in your life even during the darkest times.
    If you have someone in your life on whom you can always depend that is going to keep you healthier and will help you stay more objective when the time comes to make some tough decisions.

  • emery

    emery

    October 29th, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    I seem to find that the times in my life when I could really benefit from having others around are the times when I tend to shut down and lock everyone out.
    Why do I do that? I know that having others by my side when I am experiencing something stressful would be a great step for me but I always find that this is the time when I tend to retreat inward and really want nothing at all to do with other people. I would like to say that I have always been able to manage on my own, and I guess in some ways I have, but I also know that I have been through some times that would have probably have been a little easier had I allowed someone else in and let them help me carry the load.

  • jenson.M

    jenson.M

    October 29th, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    I’d much rather not depend upon anyone than to depend and then be disappointed or taken advantage of.From my experience,a lot of people are just not worth the trust that a good friend would need.Better safe than sorry.

  • Mr.Z

    Mr.Z

    October 29th, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    Jenson, I agree!You can ask for help once, twice of thrice but it’s always better to learn to cope with your problem yourself. Dependency is inevitable I agree but the lesser dependency the better it is for us. We need to be able to manage our own situations because you never know when you are all alone and a situation comes up. Always great to be prepared for any eventuality.

  • bree

    bree

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    like i tell my own children- sometimes you get what you get and you don’t get upset
    so what if you don’t always have a bestie there for you?
    what if you have someone else that you may not have been as close to step in and lend a hand?
    isn’t something better than nothing in this case?

  • lucy

    lucy

    December 13th, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    i live in a small community where everybody knows everybody and if you are on the inside thats great youve got it made but if youre the kind of person who people feel threatened by or dont like or they wont acknowledge because of what everyone else says than having no friends and being independent and being able to just handle youre own problems is a matter of survival you cant depend on people who ignore you because of what everyone else says small towns have unwritten rules that everyone knows and have to adhere to or you will be ejected out of the inside

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