Friendships and subjective well-being: the role of best friends, casual friends, and acquaintances

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University of New Brunswick


The importance of friendships to well-being is recognized by lay people and psychologists alike; however, not all friendships are equal. Individuals tend to classify their friends in terms of best friends, casual friends, and acquaintances. The current study explored the different functions (i.e., stimulating companionship, help, intimacy, reliable alliance, self-validation, and emotional security) that these friendships serve. Furthermore, the study examined the contribution of these functions to life satisfaction, overall affect, and subjective well-being, independent of personality, peer attachment, and social perspective-taking. In total, 683 participants completed questionnaires assessing the aforementioned variables. A 2 (gender) x 3 (friendship level) MANCOVA was conducted (with cohort as a covariate), to determine which friendship functions differed across these friendship levels for males and females. This analysis revealed that there was a linear relation between friendship level and each friendship function, such that best friends scored highest on all functions, followed by casual friends, and then acquaintances. This pattern was consistent for both genders. Moreover, a series of hierarchical multiple regressions revealed that lower neuroticism and higher extraversion, conscientiousness, and peer attachment consistently predicted subjective well-being. In addition, various aspects of best friend, casual friend, and acquaintance relationships differentially predicted subjective well-being and its components, beyond the influence of personality. These results may be used to inform future research on friendships and subjective well-being, as well as therapeutic interventions to promote wellness.