Everyone really needs friends
Small people - great friendship
While conversation plays an important role in the friendships of adolescents and adults, children choose other ways of "entering into conversation" with one another.
They share their breakfast, defend their friends against other children, even if this puts them at a disadvantage themselves. Nevertheless, these friendships are often alliances of convenience, for example in order not to have to play alone or to ally against other children or even adults.
That changes as the children get older. At this age, parents have little influence on which friends their children choose. By the way, these are often children who are completely different. Because even seven-year-olds already know that they can benefit from being different from a friend.
On the one hand because different characters complement each other and on the other hand because they feel that the relationship with a child who comes from a different environment can broaden their own horizons.
Important anchor: your best friend
Friendships don't get any easier during puberty, mainly because they play such a big role. Best friends play a key role, especially with girls. (Almost) everything is entrusted to her and she is often more important than parents or siblings.
However, such friendships can also be fragile. They can break up from one day to the next, if, for example, another "best friend" suddenly appears.
The boys find it easier there, they often have a good friend too, but he is usually more interchangeable. If he's unavailable, a lot of guys have no problem going out with another buddy.
The differences between the way men and women lead their friendships do not change in adulthood. While men often only have one close friend and otherwise more acquaintances, good friends usually play an important role for women.
Psychologists have also found that women are more likely to open up to their friends and also discuss intimate matters with them. Men, on the other hand, often reveal less about themselves and prefer to keep personal things to themselves.
In times of the Internet and social networks like Facebook, relationships have also changed. Quite a few people have an almost endless list of virtual "friends" on the Internet. However, many researchers doubt the intensity of these relationships.
They argue that you can only be really close in real life, also because the Internet invites you not to always speak honestly about your feelings. In a close, grown relationship, it is not so easy to pretend because you know each other better.
But the Internet also offers many possibilities: For example, you can communicate easily over long distances and thus maintain friendships with people who you would otherwise lose sight of.
Good friends, long life
Friends are good because those who manage to build good relationships increase their well-being. Those who have functioning social relationships are happier and healthier than people who live in isolation. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and depression, for example.
Scientists have also found that people who were accompanied by friends in exam situations, for example, released fewer stress hormones. They felt calmer and more secure than those who had no support.
Those who have good friends also seem to have a different view of life. With familiar people by your side, problems are perceived as less threatening. Plus, days when you meet friends have higher self-esteem.
Another finding of the scientists: As a "life-prolonging" measure, friends play a much more important role than their own children or other relatives. This may be because you can choose your own friends.
However, friendship only has a positive effect if it is a trusting and equal relationship and the friends "go through thick and thin" together.
Purely alliances of convenience or relationships that do not go into depth have no impact on life expectancy.
Supporters in difficult times
The researchers also examined the reasons for the many positive effects of friendships. Friendships give meaning to life. The feeling of not being alone in the world not only helps to cope with everyday life in difficult times.
It's also a good feeling to play an important role for another person. Last but not least, friends help with many decisions. And it's good to talk to someone you know about problems.
So there are enough reasons to build a stable social network. Women usually do this better than men. Finding friends and then cultivating relationships is not always easy, also because your own needs have to be put aside and everyday life often leaves little space for regular meetings.
But the investment is worth it, because - and all scientists agree - those who have good friends get through life more easily.
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