What is a friend? An exploratory typology of the meanings of friendship

Verónica Policarpo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this article I explore the contemporary normative meanings of friendship, unpacking the subject through two different questions: "what is a good friend?" and "what is an intimate friend?" Drawing on survey data from a national representative sample (n = 1142), the topic is explored in the context of a southern European country (Portugal) that represents an interesting case study, for its characteristics of late, though abrupt, entrance into late modernity. Statistical analysis of the results enabled the construction of an exploratory typology of representations of friendship, according to the meanings ascribed to friends: family-oriented; trust-oriented; self-oriented; and presence-oriented. Results inspire a two-folded interpretation. On the one hand, they point to a pervasiveness of hegemonic representations such as friendship as trust and self-disclosure, namely among the younger and more educated. On the other hand, they highlight the pervasiveness of kinship ties in the definition of friendship, namely among the elderly and less educated. This suggests that patterns of suffusion may not only refer to more individualized and plural arrangements of personal life, but also to the persistence of more traditional representations and practices, characterized by an ideological commitment to the family in its more institutional forms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-191
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Friendship
  • Friendship expectations
  • Friendship typology
  • Individualization
  • Interpersonal trust
  • Intimacy
  • Meanings of friendship


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