How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friend?

alex atkins bookshelf culture“Friendship is not about whom you know the longest,” observed the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, “It is about who came and never left.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement — and now there is research that confirms it. Psychologist Jeffrey Hall and his colleagues from the University of Kansas recently placed friendship under the microscope, as it were. In his study, titled “How Many Hours Does It Take to Make A Friend” published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (March 15, 2018), Hall reviews some of the fascinating findings from previous studies on friendship:

• Having friends is a key predictor of life satisfaction and happiness.

• The quality and number and of social interactions that occur early in life can predict loneliness, well-being, and depression thirty years later.

• Despite well-documented benefits, people do not always prioritize spending time with friends. Americans only spend about 41 minutes a day socializing — which accounts for one-third of the amount of time spent commuting or watching television. Given significant constraints on free time, especially among working adults and parents, individuals must budget their time wisely in order to make time for friends.

• Factors that promote the development of friendship are proximity, spending time together, and shared activities.

• Due to cognitive and temporal constraints there is a limit to the number of friends that a person can have: research suggests that limit is approximately 150. Sorry, so-called friends on Facebook don’t really count.

• Research has identified five distinct types of friends. In order of decreasing closeness they are (number in parenthesis indicate range of individuals within that category): support clique (1-5 individuals), sympathy group (10-15), friendship group (40-50), clansmen (120-150), and acquaintances. Perhaps we can add to that list a sixth type, Facebook friends, which can be described as “fluctuating, unreliable members of a digital community with a tenuous connection to an individual.”

• Potential friends make fairly rapid assessments of the likability and desirability of a potential friend and subsequently decide to spend time together. This rapid selection process creates a group of similar and liked individuals from which deeper friendships can grow

• Longitudinal studies of friendship development indicate that friendship development happens rather swiftly, usually within three to nine weeks after the initial meeting. It then takes three to four months for close friendships to develop. Thus, while it is possible to know someone for many years, but not become friends, it is possible to become best friends with someone you have known for just six weeks.

• An early study in 1965 found that people become friends after spending about 60 of hours together. A later study in 1988 found that people become friends after three interactions of half an hour plus an initial interaction of less than six hours of close personal interaction.

Hall’s recent study was based on the Communicate Bond Belong (CBB) theory. Hall explains, “[CBB] offers an evolutionary perspective on interpersonal communication that focus on the underlying need to belong in relation to the amount and content of social interactions. CBB theory affirms… that there are limits on human sociability and time. The theory asserts that both the amount of time and the type of activity shared with a partner can be thought of as strategic investments toward satiating long-term belongingness needs. As the need to belong is thought to be ultimately satiated only through the possession of enduring, close relationships, CBB theory asserts that humans must carefully invest their available time and social energy in ways most likely to create promising new relationships or to cement existing ones. Yet, each relationship requires ongoing investments of hours of time and energy, particularly among non-kin. Therefore, time spent together, especially leisure time, can be thought of as an investment toward future returns on belongingness need satiation…. The theory proposes that some types of social interaction are more capable of satiating individuals’ need to belong than others. Certain communication episodes, such as meaningful conversation, catching up, joking around, and affectionate communication, are associated with a higher degree of in-the-moment closeness and well-being than do all other types of everyday talk.”

Hall conducted two studies with two groups of individuals over several months. In the study, a close friendship was measured by three factors: emotional closeness, commitment to relationship, and the perceived uniqueness of the individual. The studies confirmed that time is an important constraint of friendship and that measuring time spent together is predictive of friendship. The following are the specific findings from Hall’s studies:

• Relationships with less than 10 hours of shared time result in acquaintances or “friends of friends.”

• It takes about 30 hours to form a casual friendship.

• It takes about 50 hours to form a friendship.

• It takes about 140 hours to form a good friendship.

• It takes about 300 hours to form a best friend.

• Casual friends become friends between 57 hours over 3 weeks and 164 hours over 3 months.

• Friends become good or best friends after 119 hours over 3 weeks and 219 hours over 3 months.

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Read related posts: Doublets: The Importance of Friendships
The Most Important Qualities of a Friend

How to Grieve for a Departed Friend
Life is to be Fortified by Many Friends
What is a False Friend?
Why is it More Important to Have Close Friendships Than to Be Popular in High School?
Can You Fall in Love in 36 Questions?

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