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Guy-on-guy Friendships - the Benefits and Pitfalls

Updated on February 25, 2014

Boys can bond just as well as girls.

Having good friends is important to guys' wellbeing, and males report that they want close friendships. Yet men sometimes struggle to maintain their friendships as they get older, with late adolescence a critical time when boys become wary of their male friends. Guys have other personal needs and cultural pressures, so men must learn to balance these with the traits that will allow them to access the companionship, help, security and closeness that friendships can provide.

Sharing Secrets

Sharing “deep” secrets was reported as the most important part of close male friendships, author Niobe Way reveals in “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection.” In interviews with adolescents, Professor Way found that males want close, trusting friendships with other boys, particularly in early and middle adolescence. Being able to tell their friends about their concerns, fears and problems without being laughed at was very important for guys. Boys said that close friends with whom they could be vulnerable were essential.

Benefits of Male Friendship

Men without friends are more likely to suffer from depression, ill health and find it more difficult to adjust to the world. Guys with close friends benefit from a higher sense of self-esteem, and tend to cope better with the pressures of school, work and life. Having friends who accept a guy for what he is provides validation and self-worth. Studies have shown that well-intentioned supportive friends can actually enhance academic performance and encourage healthy behaviors.

Potential Pitfalls

The people that boys make friends with can have a negative effect on their development too. Studies have shown that peer relationships can have a massive impact on male behavior as guys grow up. If a close friend is involved in anti-social behavior, such as smoking, drinking, gang culture or criminal behavior, a guy is more likely to be drawn into these activities too. Picking the right sort of friends, who will support rather than mislead, is important for young guys.

Changing Needs

Despite how much guys continue to want and need their best friends, Professor Way's book revealed that male friendships sometimes dissolve as boys get older, as they feel less willing to express their emotions to each other. They also develop a need for more power and independence, which can get in the way of intimacy.

As their friendships break down, guys report feeling lonelier and more isolated. Professor Way claims that pressure to conform to male stereotypes is largely responsible for this breakdown of friendships, as well as cultural messages that having romantic relationships is more important. Boys should feel encouraged that being loyal to your friends is an important part of "being a man."

How To Keep Close

A study of adolescents and young men showed that certain activities ensured that males were more likely to stay close friends. The 2006 study, carried out by the University of California, and published in the "Journal of Adolescent Research," showed that doing things together and sharing personal information kept guys' friendships close. Joining a sports team together is a good way of bonding, and having a post-match chat about your life can keep your friendship tight.

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