As I’ve mentioned in other social psychology episodes and in my Social Psychology and Psychology of Human Relationships books, humans are a very social species and our bonds are very important to all of us. Therefore, when these relationships break we all tend to be upset, confused and just flat out devastated when these people who we have spent time in bonding and maintaining our relationships with, are no longer our friends. But what causes this to happen? That’s the focus of today’s great episode.
Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Romantic Relationships, Friendships and More Fourth Edition (Brand New Edition!). Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Apostolou and Keramari (2021)
In order to answer that question we need to look at a great new study that investigates both the evolutionary psychology and social psychology behind friendships, but first we need to emphasise the importance of the topic a little more. Because this does truly affect everyone, no matter their age, socioeconomic status or where they live, we all prefer to keep bonds than break them.
This is even more important when we consider how much of a role friendships play in all our lives. Since it is our friends that provide us with companionship, emotional support and they are sources of a lot of pleasure and joy. Therefore, when our friendships do decay and break down, we do lose an awful lot of great things.
That’s why it is critical to know why friendships break down in the first place.
To investigate this, Apostolou and Keramari (2021) conducted a recent study using 577 over 18-year-olds and this study ended up concluding 4 factors that lead to why friendships end. And for the sake of research methodology and to stretch out this episode a little longer, it’s important to note that both men and women were used in this study, so the results can be applied to both sexes, and there was no difference between opposite- and same-sex friendships, so these results are fairly generalisable.
As well as another good thing about this study is that you really can apply the results to your own life to different extents so you can possibly understand why you’ve lost friends in the past, and these results could help all of us to be better friends moving forward.
Apostolou and Keramari (2021)’s 4 Factors To Why Friendships End
Now let’s look at these 4 factors.
The researchers found that women were more likely to end friendships if they perceived that their friend was interested in them or their partner romantically. Which I can understand because it certainly does bring a little more awkwardness to the friendship. Then again I’ve been in friendships when I’ve liked them and they actually didn’t impact the friendship at all and it ended for completely different reasons that were more to do with other people then me and my friend.
Lack of Frequent Interaction
This is definitely an important factor and I will have to admit, I am extremely guilty of this, and I would have to say this is probably how most of my friendships have ended in the past. But Apostolou and Keramari (2021) found that losing touch and having a decreased amount of communication fell under this reason for why friendships ended. As well as men, not women, were more likely to say this was a reason for ending a friendship.
This reason isn’t strictly limited to selfishness per se, because a lack of reciprocity and trust in a friendship fell under this section too. As well as if friendships were or became unsupportive, unkind or manipulative then these traits also fell under this reason, among others. And I really do recommend checking out the study itself for more details for this category, some of it’s really interesting.
In addition, women were more likely than men to end friendships because of selfishness.
Perceptions Of Friends and Family
This is a reason I have wholeheartedly support and this is just an awful reason because I really can and does ruin friendships. Therefore, Apostolou and Keramari (2021) found that both men and women were just as likely as each other to end their friendships if their other friends and family members disapproved of them. And one example of this could be our other friends pointing out the negative effects these friends have on us.
Personally, I completely get that example and I have done it too. I have openly said to friends before that I didn’t think they were a good influence on them, and to be honest they weren’t. Because we all want to protect our friends so they don’t make a decision they’re going to regret or do something stupid, if not a little criminal. And even that example has probably given you an insight into one of my friendships and their other friends.
But equally, something friends and family members can overreact for no reason and ruin a very healthy and great friendship. So it is a tough one and one that I have a lot of experience with.
Lastly, Apostolou and Keramari (2021) did find that older people were more likely to end friendships than younger people, with the researchers suggesting this is because older people tend to already have a well-formed group of friends so they’re in a better position to sort through and eliminate friendships that aren’t serving them well.
Limitations of Apostolou and Keramari (2021)
Of course, no study is ever perfect and I do sort of like to look at this methodology side of life on the podcast from time to time. For example, Apostolou and Keramari (2021) didn’t look at the difference in dynamics involved in ending opposite versus same-sex friendships, so that’s something for future studies to explore.
Additionally, it would have been good to know the quality (strength) of the friendships before it was ended. This would allow us to understand if a newer friendship is easier or harder to end than an older one, and if the reasons are different.
Finally, and this is a mini-theme on The Psychology World Podcast, but this study was conducted in Greece. As a result, it would be interesting to see if this study replicated well in other cultures in other countries on other continents.
Social Psychology Conclusion
Personally, I know today’s episode was very different from what we normally look at on the podcast but it is important to do. It is important for all of us to break out of our niches from time to time and explore other areas of our amazing, wonderful and to be honest, breath-taking profession.
And this is even better when we explore a topic that does directly impact our lives and maybe even improves it.
Since now we know as real people, not psychologists, four things not to do, or we do truly risk ruining and breaking our friendships with those we treasure. This is something I think we can all agree is something that we really, really want to avoid.
Because we are a social species, and absolutely none of us want to experience the pain of losing our precious social bonds.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s biological psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Romantic Relationships, Friendships and More Fourth Edition (Brand New Edition!). Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day.
Social Psychology Reference
Apostolou, M., & Keramari, D.(2021). Why friendships end: An evolutionary examination. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. Advance publication.
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