It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Last year…the British psychologists Liz Wright and Tony Cassidy found that young people who had grown up with at least one sister tended to be happier and more optimistic, especially if their parents had divorced. Another British researcher, Judy Dunn, found a similar pattern among older adults.” (“Why Sisterly Chats Make People Happier,” The New York Times, 10/26/2010)
It seems I’m not the only person wondering about whether family can suffice as best friends. In an essay that became the Times’ most emailed article of the day yesterday, Deborah Tannen examines a collection of recent studies, all of which found that having sisters will make you happier, no matter your gender.
But why? Tannen argues it’s not the type of communicating women do—our face-to-face emotional gabfest isn’t any better or more productive than male side-by-side bonding—but the frequency with which we do it.
There’s plenty of similar research about cross-gender friendships. Both men and women get more emotional satisfaction and support out of relationships with female friends. It’s time with the ladies that determines our loneliness factor. If Tannen’s reasons are correct—if we like sisters better because they’re willing to talk a lot—then the same could likely be said of female friends. We women have the whole relationship thing down pat.
I wonder if I would be less aggressive about this search if I had a sister of my own. The ultimate BFF is probably one who is more like family than friend. But that’s not what this search is about. At least not for me.
I’m not trying to recreate a sibling relationship because I already have a great one. Maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I talk to my brother all the time. Almost every day, if gchatting and instant messenger count. We rarely talk about feelings, and when we do there’s always an air of awkwardness, but we don’t have to. We can read emotions without addressing them. Instead we talk about mutual friends, family, TV, and general observations about the world.
As I’ve said previously, my sibling relationship can’t replace what I am looking for in a BFF. But maybe I’d change my tune if I had a sister waiting in the wings. Tannen sure paints a nice picture.
If you have a sister, do you talk to her often? Do you talk about feelings more than activities? If you have a brother, do you wish you spoke more? Is one more eligible for friendship than the other?