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Between family and friends: a longitudinal study of friendship choice




The increasing role for chosen friends is a key element in current debates on individualization and the transformation of intimacy. This paper describes the changes in friendship choices over time and demonstrates how life events subsequently impact on those choices. We primarily distinguish between kin and non-kin nominations of friends and how these may be related to the social and economic turbulence inherent in late modernity. Analyses of data from ten years of the British Household Panel Survey showed that kin nominations still form a significant proportion of all friends but increasingly so with age and over time as people age. Life events, such as divorce or death of a partner, have large effects on the likelihood of changes in friendship choices as did gender, age, marital status and social class. We frame these results in a discussion of the saliency and nature of friendship at stages of the life course and conclude that the case for a general secular shift to choosing non-kin friendships rather than kin-based friendship is not demonstrated.