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Why do some women have such a hard time making friends: Nature or nurture?

Many women write to me perplexed about why they can’t form close friendships. They try new approaches, put themselves in all the right places, see therapists, and read relevant self-help books. They consider themselves interesting, loyal, kind, and friend-worthy people. But for reasons unknown to them, they have a tough time forming the intimate relationships other women seem to have and that they covet for themselves. Many admit to not having even one close friend.

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology offers some clues as to how both nature (personality) and nurture (experience) impact our friendships. Researchers at the University of Virginia and University of Toronto, Mississauga studied more than 7000 American adults between the ages of 20 and 75 over a period of ten years, looking at the number of times these adults moved during childhood. Their study, like prior ones, showed a link between “residential mobility” and adult well-being: The more times participants moved as children, the poorer the quality of their adult social relationships.

But digging deeper, the researchers found that personality—specifically being introverted or extroverted —could either intensify or buffer the effect of moving to a new town or neighborhood during childhood. The negative impact of more moves during childhood was far greater for introverts compared to extroverts.

“Moving a lot makes it difficult for people to maintain long-term close relationships,” stated Dr. Shigehiro Oishi, the first author of the study, in a press release from the American Psychological Association, “This might not be a serious problem for outgoing people who can make friends quickly and easily. Less outgoing people have a harder time making new friends.”

Families often have to relocate—across town, across the country, or across the globe. Yet, in many cases, their kids and young adolescents haven’t yet built up a bank of friendships or garnered sufficient experience at making new friends and at handling rejection. So the conventional wisdom is to try to minimize moves for the sake of your child, whenever possible, and to move at the end of the academic year. Additionally, parents are advised to monitor and, if necessary, help guide their children’s friendships during the first academic year after a move, which generally is the most difficult.

Moves during childhood affected adult friendships differently because of the unique interplay between nature (personality type, which is determined in part by genes) and nurture (in this case, the moves) for different individuals. That makes the answer to the question of why some women are more successful than others in making friends extremely complex. And this study raises the question of how many other factors come into play that we haven’t even yet considered.

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Category: MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (851)

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  1. I moved around a fair bit during childhood, too. You put the roots down, make friends only to be uprooted and transplanted elsewhere.

    I think there were other issues besides moving around during childhood that caused me to come to grief when trying to make friends and one of these was my ‘nature.’ I was too docile and passive just accepting the people life sent drifting my way. When I was 35 I did a hard reset in life and ended up rewiring my mind to the point that my nature changed for the better. Here are some of the important things I discovered.

    * Reach out beyond the natural boundaries of your life to others. If the kind of friends you desire are in short supply at school, work or church look further a field. Go to new social groups or events and meet new people. When it comes to living on a higher strata of satisfying and rewarding friendships you’re not meant to wander through life wearing horse blinders and only traversing an incredibly narrow strip of life.

    * Consider what your interests and passions are and find people in those areas. Common ground determines to a certain degree how much time you spend with a friend and how often you meet up. It’s more important than I originally thought.

    * Some people just don’t realize that the scale of their friendship endeavor is just not enough to get the results they desire. I took my friendship efforts to a whole new level and by that I mean several notches.

    * For those who have difficulty finding decent friendships dwell on this beneficial question, “How am I responsible for my friendship situation?” I found it very enlightening and beneficial.

    * We are all stewards of the social slots in our lives. When friends prove unresponsive, chronically passive, apathetic or indifferent it’s time to seriously consider giving their social slot to someone else. Not doing so may inhibit good friends from entering our lives. Social slots are not meant to be filled with super glue. They are meant to be teflon coated.

    Andrew Burgon
    Project Fellowship

  2. Carol says:

    HI,
    I had friends growing up but as I got older; I seem to have less and less. I was also interested in arts, literature, fashion, writing, reading, etc. and I am an only child. I did ask someone a few years ago why never called me for social gatherings. They said that I was independent and they felt I didn’t need people around as much as they did. Plus they felt I had a hard time relating to groups of people and various conversations. My problem with that is the age group situation. I was hanging around people who wither either too old or too young for my age. I am in my 40′s. Also those who are married with kids. I am single and do not have children. I would suggest like myself, finding people with common interest in your own age group.

  3. Carol says:

    HI,
    I had friends growing up but as I got older; I seem to have less and less. I was also interested in arts, literature, fashion, writing, reading, etc. and I am an only child. I did ask someone a few years ago why never called me for social gatherings. They said that I was independent and they felt I didn’t need people around as much as they did. Plus they felt I had a hard time relating to groups of people and various conversations. My problem with that is the age group situation. I was hanging around people who wither either too old or too young for my age. I am in my 40s. Also those who are married with kids. I am single and do not have children. I would suggest like myself, finding people with common interest in your own age group.

  4. nene says:

    Hi .
    i have been alone since my childhood and to this day i wish my mother to hug and love me but that may not happen .I was different from other kids
    very observant ,artistic ,intelligent .the kids were not interested in theories ,books , painting ,astronomy etc i was good and better than other kids of my age .My father used to encourage me but mother never believed in me .she still says u r good for nothing who will marry or like u a rotten piece .
    I think one can have 1 or 2 good friends who really care in life time .i think at least for me men can be good friends too .i have few friends who are men and why not if someone cares for u as a friend .
    life has taught me not to take things people too seriously go with the rythum {english is not my first language }.
    Dont criticize other,or comment on someones private life .dont advise if not asked for .Dont correct others manners or speech be comfortable and dont be suspicious .
    Besides i know i am very sensitive .I run away from people who admire me like me ,i seek people who are rude .i have tried reason with myself why and now i try to see myself differently ,treat people differently .
    i also understand my mother had a difficult life .she got married when she ws 15 and my father 17 her in laws were very abusive and harsh .
    so i forgave her long ago but she has not changed at all .but She does not says nasty things and gives me respect as a person now .which is okay

    • jenx says:

      nene, where are you from? your experience sounds similar to mine. I moved a lot as a child — 3 states, 7 schools before I was 10 yrs old, so that seems to be a deep seated issue. I also find the drama that people bring around here –every one knows eachother, small town etc. very off putting. I too have always been observant, artistic, passionate about literature and writing, and have had a harder time relating to people in adulthood.

      • Angie says:

        Hi Jenx, Nene
        I have also had a hard time making friends more so as an adult I have similar interest as you. When I was a child I seemed to have more friends. I think it maybe because I have a hard time trusting females it maybe associated with my feelings for my mother. I want friends but its like something just holds me back and I hold back.

  5. nene says:

    Hi .
    i have been alone since my childhood and to this day i wish my mother to hug and love me but that may not happen .I was different from other kids
    very observant ,artistic ,intelligent .the kids were not interested in theories ,books , painting ,astronomy etc i was good and better than other kids of my age .My father used to encourage me but mother never believed in me .she still says u r good for nothing who will marry or like u a rotten piece .
    I think one can have 1 or 2 good friends who really care in life time .i think at least for me men can be good friends too .i have few friends who are men and why not if someone cares for u as a friend .
    life has taught me not to take things people too seriously go with the rythum {english is not my first language }.
    Dont criticize other,or comment on someones private life .dont advise if not asked for .Dont correct others manners or speech be comfortable and dont be suspicious .
    Besides i know i am very sensitive .I run away from people who admire me like me ,i seek people who are rude .i have tried reason with myself why and now i try to see myself differently ,treat people differently .
    i also understand my mother had a difficult life .she got married when she ws 15 and my father 17 her in laws were very abusive and harsh .
    so i forgave her long ago but she has not changed at all . She does not says nasty things and gives me respect as a person now .

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