Is Blood Thicker Than Water?
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Keywords: family, relationships, psychology
Literature Review DraftIs Blood is Thicker than Water?
"Blood is thicker than water", this idiom expresses the idea that family relationships are stronger and more durable than friendship ties. This idea is reinforced through customs, traditions, and laws that give familial relationships prerogative over non-familial ties and determine who may be defined as family (Muraco, 2006). In fact this theme is so pervasive in our society that, at times, it goes unrecognized for example; should a child's parents pass away all eyes look to the next of kin or closest living relative. It is the same if there was a collection of debts that need to be paid. In the case of hospitalization in an intensive care unit, often the rule is the admittance of immediate family only. In fact, according to the Uniform Probate Code of the United States section 2-103 in the event that one dies without a will, both children and the whole of their estate go to their family (source). Many find it intriguing that it is the conventional assumption within our society that in a time of crisis, it is the presence of those we are most concerned about in our lives our family- that is of most importance. The idea that familial relationships mean more than all other types of relationships, dates back almost 600 years to 1412 (source). The fact that this idea is still prevalent today, so many centuries later, leads the author to believe that there must be something fundamentally, or qualitatively different about the relationships we have with family (mother, father, sibling), and those we have with friends. If so, what is it? The aim of this paper examines these issues and as a result suggests further research that needs to be done.
networks of family support tend to be denser than friendship networks (Wellman & Wortley, 1989), creating a context in which responsibilities toward family members develop (Finch & Mason, 1993); responsibility is further strengthened by norms within our (Himes & Reidy, 2000; Stein et al., 1998). On one hand, family relationships are continued even if there is a degree of animosity and conflict (Allan, 1996). Friendship, on the other hand, can be seen as an independent relationship that tends to be based strongly on a sense of reciprocity (Buunk & Prins, 1998). We therefore expect sibling relationships to be less strongly influenced than friendships by these mechanisms.
With marriage being less stable, and with the number of children falling, peer relationships potentially become increasingly important. Friendship offers a way of inventing and re-inventing the self in an authentic way throughout one's life. As such it is particularly important to women whose idea of themselves is typically rooted in social relationships. (O'Connor 1999: 118)
By virtue of growing up in the same family, siblings know each other intimately and develop a body of shared knowledge that may facilitate a common basis for social understanding. In 2005 Schaf, Schulman and Spitz found that siblings provide emotional support for each other, resulting in reduced anxiety that can come with being an outcast with peers. The sibling relationship ahs been shown to be increasingly valuable being as it has been found associated with lower loneliness and depression and with higher self-esteem and overall life satisfaction. Also, sibling support has been found to compensate when there is an absence of not only parental support but friendship support aswell (Anderson, 2005)..
In a study about social understanding and interpersonal relationships Clarke and Dunn found that the differences in the relationship between siblings and friends are based first on the fact that there is a choice involved. Children choose their friends however they do not choose their siblings and are typically faced with living with them. They also found that sibling relationships can have attributes like hostility and ambivalence which are rarely found in friendships (2005).
Among the differences between these relationships are the expectations involved. In familial relationships the emphasis is not on equality, balance, and reciprocity as is the case in friendships (Mills, Clark, Ford, & Johnson, 2004). However the sibling relationship, not unlike the friend relationship requires maintenance by regular positive interaction, its does not remain ready at all times to be activated whenever the need arises (Voorspstal, 2007). The general everyday understanding of what family entails is different from everyday understanding of what friendship entails. This does not mean that family and friend relationships have no commonality, nor does it mean that people never regard friends as family or family as friends. It does, however, suggest that different forms of unity and commitment usually differentiate the two sets of relationships; specifically, the demands that family and friends generally view as legitimate to expect of each other are usually patterned differently, including the consequent effect on the emotional, practical, and material resources that they are prepared to give (Ueno & Adams, 2006). In 2005 a study on the sibling relationship in emerging adulthood was conducted which included interviews as part of the method. One participant gave voice to what is a common cultural belief, he wrote, "I don't like my siblingsthey don't like me. If we had a choice we'd never see each other again. But a family is a group of people you're stuck with for life whether you like it or not."(Leh & Ruppe, 2005). Other participants reported relying on their siblings for immediate help and for care in cases of sickness. Additionally, from the qualitative responses obtained, an overwhelming number of responses contained positive comments about sibling relationships.
The shift from having a non-family closest friend to having a family member as closest friend is more likely to occur amongst women, older people, lower class and, interestingly, both by getting married or by being widow(ed). That these changes in marital status lead to a shift towards a family member as closest friend is an important finding. It is well established in the literature that those who are newly separated or divorced are more likely to look to non-family members as their closest friend.
This is often to avoid the feeling of being judged by family specifically parents or siblings who may have developed a good relationship with their former spouse. In the case of the death of the partner, family members are more likely to provide sympathetic support and so it is less likely that the grieving person would be made to feel judged. In the longer term, however, those who remain widowed are likely to move on from having a relative as their closest friend to having someone outside the family as their closest friend.
Importantly, at various phases within the lifespan, the particular structural circumstances of people's lives may result in both a greater reliance on friends and a reduced involvement with family (Pahl & Pevalin, 2005). For example, for some young adults who are establishing their independence from their family but not (yet) started their own, that is, involved in a committed partnerships or a parental phase of life, friends may be the main component of their emotional and practical support networks (Heath & Cleaver, 2003). At this time, they may have relatively little involvement with their family relationships. Without necessarily rejecting these ties, their choice is to place more emphasis on friendships with others who may be in a similar situation like unto themselves (Allen, 2008).