T. Golovanova, O. Vasilchenko

The design acceptance, issues and implications of intimate friends are explored through discussions and interviews and a review of the psychological literature on interpersonal relationships. The importance of close friendships to mental and physical health and personal development is discussed along with a look at the state of such relationships in our society. The gender aspects of student’s friendship are analyzed.

Key words: friendship, physical health, mental health, gender.

Голованова Т., Васильченко О. Дружба та інтимність у студентському віці: гендерний підхід. Стаття присвячена аналізу психологічної літератури з проблеми взаємовідносин, а також указує на важливість близької дружби для фізичного та ментального здоров’я особистості. Проаналізовано гендерний аспект товариських відносин студентів.

Ключові слова: дружба, фізичне здоров’я, ментальне здоров’я, гендер.

Голованова Т., Васильченко Е. Дружба и интимность в студенческом возрасте: гендерный подход. Статья посвящена анализу психологической литературы по проблеме взаимоотношений, а также указывает на важность дружбы для физического и ментального здоровья личности. Проанализирован гендерный аспект дружеских отношений студентов.

Ключевые слова: дружба, физическое здоровье, ментальное здоровье, гендер.

Friendship gives us an impulse to understand the gender as a social cultural constructor. Gender points out the importance of such components as patterns of behavior, purposes, values, material attributes (clothes, accessory) belonging to the representatives of sex.

The problems of friendship and love are considered by many researchers.

To reflect the role of the students’ friendship we have interviewed students and found that they seek to satisfy their needs in intimacy and fellowship. Intimate friends are more important now than ever. We need to have close friends that we can talk to about our feelings and problems in order to get empathetic, non-judgmental, hearings as means of stabilizing and guiding our frantic lives. Psychologists have demonstrated the crucial role that friends play in everything from our development of self identity to self esteem, and the important role they play in mitigating the increasing stress in our health [9]. Not only does having a close confidant make people better able to cope with marital disruption, money problems, failure, illness, or death, but children also reap the benefits when their parents have close, dependable friends to call on in a crisis. At least one survey has indicated that close personal relationships are what give meaning to most people’s lives [7]. Unfortunately, the state of friendship in our society is in trouble. Many people and men in particular, would say they are too busy for friends, given the increasing demands of work, commuting, consumerism, child care, second jobs, and compulsive commitments to television and physical fitness [4]. To say that men have no intimate friends seems on the surface too harsh, and it raises quick objections from most men. But the data indicate that it is not far from the truth. Even the most intimate of friendships (of which there are very few) rarely approach the depth of disclosure a woman commonly has with many other women.

We want clearly to differentiate between casual friendships and intimate friendships. Psychologists distinguish between social loneliness stemming from a lack of friendship ties and emotional loneliness stemming from a lack of intimate relationships, and conclude that emotional loneliness is more severe of the two forms. Most students interviewed about friendship said that it had something to do with reliability (being able to depend on friends), mutual interests or a shared history or understanding of other person. Intimate friendships, in comparison, have one additional quality that was mentioned by almost everyone. We talked to - self-disclosure - the ability to talk openly about one’s inner thoughts and feelings. As Natalja, a social pedagogue student put it: “I will seek help from a friend. If I’m depressed and need a release, I will find my best friend and talk to him. Maybe after the talk I will be released. A friend is someone you will spend some time together and do things with. A friend is someone to talk to, even if they don’t have the solution to my problem”. Sergej, a student from the Department of Mathematics, described an intimate friend as, “somebody that you could express more feelings and details about yourself to, and ask more intimate questions of. The level of communication increases a lot when you get intimate”. This focus on self-disclosure and partner responsiveness to it (empathy) is echoed in the literature on the psychology of intimate relationships [8]. Intimacy problems account for the primary reason people seek out therapists for work on interpersonal relationships [6], and lack of a confidant has been shown to lead to an order-of-magnitude increase in likelihood of depression following severe life events [2]. There is a considerable body of research which shows that married individuals enjoy better health and well-being than non-married individuals [3]. In addition, some psychologists argue that the absence of close male relationships is strongly related to the significantly higher rate of suicide among men [5]. There are several theoretical frameworks in psychology which deal with different aspects of friendship and intimacy. Attachment Theory, while initially developed to describe infants’ feelings of attachment and loss with respect to their primary caregivers, has more recently been applied to adult relationships (Feeney and Noller, 1996). In this theory, the attachment figure serves as a “secure base” from which the individual feels safe to explore and master their environment. Individuals are categorized according to their experiences with intimacy as infants: secure individuals had parents which were available, responsive and warm, and are sociable and engage in high levels of exploration; avoidant individuals had parents who were rejecting, rigid, hostile, and averse to contact, and respond with defensiveness and avoidance of close contact; and anxious-ambivalent individuals had parents who were insensitive, intrusive, and inconsistent and respond with anxious behaviors such as crying and clinging. Various frameworks have also been developed to describe different aspects of intimacy [9]. Some theorists maintain that the establishment of an intimate relationship is a crucial stage in the life development of an individual, and can only be achieved once a reasonable sense of self identity has been established. Other theorists approach intimacy as an enduring motivation to experience closeness, warmth and communication. Equilibrium models of intimacy account for the fact that individuals seek to achieve a fixed level of intimacy in a given interaction, and if this equilibrium is disturbed (e. g. by topic change in the conversation) they will seek to restore the overall balance of intimacy through other channels (e. g. eye contact, smiling, and physical proximity). Finally, equity theory states that an individual tries to maintain a balance between their own input (cost, investment) outcome (perceived benefits) ratio and their partner’s in an intimate relationship.

Other researchers have concluded that equity theory is more descriptive of new acquaintances (grouped under the more general category of exchange theory), while interactions between intimates are better characterized by communal relationships, in which people give in response to the other’s needs, regardless of whether they are “paid back” [1].

Finally, Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy has been used to describe “addiction” to graphical chat rooms such as the Palace [10]. The model describes human needs according to a hierarchy ranging from very fundamental biolgoical needs to higher order ones of an aesthetic and self-actualizing nature. When a person is able to satisfy needs at one level, he is then prepared to move upward to the next. Many of these needs (the second and third levels in particular) may also be satisfied through interaction with a friend, allowing students to spend more time on spiritual and selfactualization activities.

As one student says in a discussion of the role of friendship in an individual’s development: “We make friends and friends make us”. A study of friendship among Zaporizhja National University students confirmed findings from previous studies-namely, that gender differences exist in what each considers the basis for friendship and that young men and women differ in their conceptualizations of friendship. College students were questioned about their friendships as well as observed in a role - playing exercise: No differences appeared in the number of friends or the amount of time spent with friends for young men and young women, but men were more likely than women to choose an activity to do with a friend rather than “just talk” and to choose their friends on the basis of shared activities rather than shared attitudes. These differences did not lead to differential evaluations of intimacy, Women and men were equally likely to consider their friendships intimate.


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2. Brown G. W., Harris T. Social origins of depression: A study of psychiatric disorder in women // Free Press.- New York, 1978 as quoted in D. Perlman and B. Fehr. “The Development of Intimate Relationships” in D. Perlman and S. Duck eds. // Intimate Relationships. Sage Publications.- Newbury Park.- CA.- 1987.- Р. 13-42.

3. Fehr B., Perlman D. The family as a social network and support system // Handbook of family psychology and therapy.- Vol. 1: Dow-Jones Irwin, Homewood.- IL.- 1985.- Р. 323-356.

4. Forbes.- 1985.- January 14.- Р. 12.

5. Goldberg H. The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the myth of masculine privilege // Nash.- New York, 1976.

6. Horowitz L. On the cognitive structure of interpersonal problems treated in psychotherapy // J. of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.- 1979.- 47.- Р. 5-15 as quoted in D. Perlman and B. Fehr. The Development of Intimate Relationships / in D. Perlman and S. Duck eds. // Intimate Relationships, Sage Publications.- Newbury Park.- CA.- 1987.- Р. 13-42.

7. Klinger E. Meaning and void: Inner experience and the incentives in people’s lives.- Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

8. Laurenceau J. P., Barrett L. F., Pietromonaco P. R. Intimacy as an interpersonal process: The importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.- 1998.- Vol. 74.- № 5.- May.- P. 1238-1251

9. Perlman D., Fehr B. The Development of Intimate Relationships / D. Perlman and

S. Duck eds. // Intimate Relationships.- Sage Publications.- Newbury Park.- CA.- 1987.- Р. 13-42.

10.Suler J. Why is This Thing Eating My Life: Computer and Cyberspace Addiction at the “Palace” (Http://www1 .rider. edu/ ~suler/psycyber/eatlife. html).