You must have seen it in your life: men and women have different relationships with their friends. While women are often ready and eager to speak about more emotional or personal topics, men’s relationships are often consumed by less conversation and more action – watching sports or playing video games, for example.
Robin Dunbar, an Oxford psychologist who has studied friendship for more than 50 years, has noticed this as well.
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From a very early age, Dunbar’s research shows, differences in friendships between young girls and young boys become apparent: while girls’ friendships are typically conversation-based and emotionally intense, boys’ friendships are more is accidental.
“They depend a lot, not on who you are, but on the fact that you belong to my club,” Dunbar said. “No matter what the club defines … it could just be people who drink or play football together on Friday nights.”
Dunbar said he and his team looked at thousands of people’s Facebook photos to confirm this. While women’s profile pictures regularly feature them and a close friend – often just two people – men are more likely to have profile pictures that feature them and a group of people, often other men, in some sort of activity. participate, such as sports or hiking. Posting a picture with him and his “best friend” or his spouse was extremely unlikely.
Dunbar said this social media observation reflects the real dynamics in friendships. Its effect can be seen in primary schools – while for the first time, researchers have observed, girls like to engage in rough play with boys, sometimes, as soon as it gets harsh and harsh, the girls get bored. They leave and go to talk to each other.
Another major difference in male and female friendships that Dunbar and other researchers have observed is their maintenance. When men go cross-country, they often lose touch with their friends, while women are more likely to keep in touch with the friends they made at university, for example.
Often, Dunbar said, when jobs and kids make life busy, it’s women who do most of the work maintaining friendships, so by the time they reach middle age, a man can be followed by a woman. more likely to be consumed. Social circle – the friendships of those women with husbands – vice versa. This lack of their own intimate support system can become a problem as men reach old age and outnumber their wives.
“Loneliness deaths” are well documented in research and can happen to both men and women – they occur when a spouse dies shortly after the death of a spouse. Research shows that the main contributing factors to these deaths are social isolation and loneliness. The 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging found that having friends and social networks has a significant protective effect against mortality in older people.
Dunbar cited the hard work of pregnancy and the early years of childcare as potentially distinct reasons why women tend to bond more easily into adulthood. In heterosexual relationships, for example, breastfeeding may not be advised by their spouse, so they have to rely on other women to adapt to their new circumstances.
This experience also often leads to an intimate bond between a mother and daughter. Dunbar said research using phone logs from study participants in Europe showed that over the course of a lifetime, although spouses are typically each other’s most commonly called individuals, it remains the same for the woman. Suddenly changes when she reaches mid-life and later. At this point, the person most called often becomes the daughter.
female friendship development
Professor Ana M. Martinez Alleman at Boston College, USA, studied female friendships at the university in the mid-90s. She found that these close friendships played a constructive role in the socialization of women, influencing their identity formation and intellectual understanding of their place in the world.
He followed up with the same women ten years later to see what their social world was like – had they maintained friendships?
Many women had – and the friendship really grew closer as the women got older. In the post-college years, marked by the loneliness of moving to new cities, conflicts with partners and children, sometimes pregnancies and careers in male-dominated fields, friendships often underwent “increased intimacy”.
“More detailed, penetrating, and sharp, the conversation of female friends has intensified despite the supposed geographic separation,” wrote Martínez Aleman. “Many women are now living far enough away from their college girlfriends, so everyone notices that their conversations are now planned and somewhat deliberate.”
trend and friendliness
Nurture also appears to play a role, but it is almost impossible to answer the question of nature versus nurture in this situation.
Dunbar said that although subconsciously gender parenting may play a minor role in the different ways boys and girls befriend, he rejects the notion that it tells the whole story. The same social dynamics can be seen in primates, he said – when young male apes play, they often participate in bouts of rough-and-tumble wrestling, while young female apes carry sticks and rocks like children. Has been seen – as little human girls do with baby dolls.
The family can certainly play a role in human relationships. For example: Research published in 2019 in the American Journal of Primatology indicates that the better a teenage girl has with her mother, the more likely she is to have close friendships.
The paper also notes something called the propensity and mate hypothesis, a theory about how people — women more often than men — respond to stress.
Psychologists have largely identified two ways in which people respond to stress: fight or flight. Tendency and friendliness theory provides insight into a third way in which people respond to stress – by connecting with others.
Coined by UCLA psychologist Shelley Taylor, the theory states that when people, usually women, face stress, they turn to their offspring and connect with other people. The impulse to make these connections may be due to a lack of oxytocin in the brain in response to social isolation and relationship problems, she said.
In a 2011 paper outlining the theory, Taylor wrote that it may help explain one reason why women are more likely to live longer than men – while men are more likely to fight or react to stress. Which leads to problems like substance abuse, coronary heart disease. And even to suicide, women are more likely to turn to their friends in times of need, which has a positive effect on their health.
What is the reason for these differences?
While the propensity and friendliness hypothesis can be explained by women’s greater maternal instincts, it does not explain why women find more fun in conversation and emotional vulnerability than men, or why female friendships are generally more common in activities such as playing sports. Why is it not centered around
Although the very different nature of female and male friendships have been repeatedly noted in social research, the reasons for this are difficult to understand. This requires answering an old, highly debated and politically complex question: is there a difference between female and male brains? To what extent are gender differences in nature, and to what extent are they nurtured?
Few studies have attempted to answer this question. But as soon as a study is published, reviews critical of its methods come along. For now, the reason why male and female friendships differ so much is unclear.
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