Public Portrayals of
Pamela J. Kalbfleisch1 University of Kentucky
As previous chapters by Bendtscheider and Duck and Roiger discussed, ongoing friendships play a valuable role in our everyday lives. Friends can provide companionship, love, and compassion ( Rawlins, 1992). They can build our self-esteem ( O'Connor & Brown, 1984). They can also help us deal with our life's experiences and provide social support ( Cauce & Srebnik, 1990; Duck, 1973; Leatham & Duck, 1990). The importance of having friends has been well established in the research literature (cf. Adelman, Parks, & Albrecht, 1987; Duck, 1973; Rawlins, 1992; Wright, 1978).
Friendship relationships are unique from other close relationships in that they are voluntarily initiated and maintained, and they are not bound together by formal societal forces as are romantic or family relationships ( Fisher, 1982; Palisi & Ransford, 1987; Wiseman, 1986). It is the voluntary nature of these friendships that enhances their significance. With few formal constraints to discourage disengagement, friendships are maintained because the relational partners want to stay in the relationship.
Friendships can vary in their closeness. They have been described as close versus casual ( Hays, 1989); best, close, and casual ( Rose & Serafica, 1986); superficial and developed ( Wright, 1984); and best friends, close friends, average friends, specialized friends, and the pool of possible friends ( Rawlins & Holl, 1987). In examining relationship terms, Knapp, Ellis, and Williams ( 1980)____________________