Student Research Projects

Friends as Family: Historical Context Shapes One's View of Friendship

Student Olivia Phillips
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Communication
Course COMM 411: Friendship


Friends are an essential part of the human life. They are there for us to share and create memories, both good and bad, but most importantly they are there for love and support. As Aristotle once wrote, “a true friend is one soul in two bodies” (Wagoner 61). Friends can become very close to one another or very distant, but in some cases, a friendship can transform to something even more important, a surrogate family. As families began to slowly deteriorate in the early 1980s, more people were experiencing the effects of a broken home for the first time (Furstenberg 382). Researchers have found that divorce rates have increased 40% since the turn of the century (Furstenberg 382). The psychological effects of this change in society was creating a phenomena where friends began to function in terms of family as well as friends.

Likewise, the media began to reflect this new concept and emulate it in all kinds of different texts. The Outsiders, a film released in 1983, told the story of a group of boys who came from broken homes, but survived because they became a family of their own. Similarly, Boy Meets World, a television series that started in 1993, featured a group of friends who did not have solid family structures but always managed to take care of themselves. Brandon Sanderson’s novel Mistborn, published in 2006, describes a group of thieves who grew up without a real family but made do with their friends. The theme of friends as family has since become present throughout the media, all because of a cultural change in family dynamics. Friends who grow up with weak family ties tend to group together to create a surrogate family, as portrayed in diverse media texts.