Towards a generational transformation of the role and meaning of friendship

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi; Lunds universitet/Sociologiska institutionen

Abstract: The thesis sets out to explore the role and meaning of friendships across two age groups. This is attained by a generational interview design where the groups are separated by nearly 20 years. The thesis is motivated by an alleged seismic shift towards the importance of friendships as the nuclear family imagery is on a purported decline in ‘contemporary society’ as suggested by the academic literature presented in this thesis. The research is based on 14 in-depth interviews divided into two age groups. The respondents live in and around Copenhagen. The research employed the free association narrative interview method to examine practices and ideals of the friendship imagery. The thesis generates epistemological conceptualizations of the roles and meanings of friendships by employing a bottom-up approach in which the respondents explore their own meaning-frame. This is done in addition to a top-down approach where the thesis operationalizes the concepts of intimacy and care in relation to friendships. The results showed an increased appraisal of friends as essential to people’s lives similar to that of partners and family. This was conceptualized as ‘life witnesses’. The younger age group was highly emotionally dependent on their friends, whereas the elder sample group showed greater diversity with both traditional heteronormative leanings, as well as more progressive social leanings. The thesis points towards the importance of considering friends as essential sources of intimacy and care.

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