friends vs. family

*update below*

luke asks: “How important is friendship — between-non relatives that is — in highly inbred societies?”

good question.

there are two questions that relate to this on the world values survey (2005-2008 wave):

– For each of the following aspects, indicate how important it is in your life. Would you say it is: Family.
– For each of the following aspects, indicate how important it is in your life. Would you say it is: Friends.

i’m assuming that “friends” means non-relative friends to all of the respondents.

possible responses:

1 Very important
2 Rather important
3 Not very important
4 Not at all important

i looked at just those that responded “very important” to each question. i haven’t sorted any of the nations by ethnicity, so … you know … some nations (like the u.s.) are kinda mixed up ’cause they’re multi-ethnic.

here are the nations sorted by those who responded that family was the most important to them. all five father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marrying societies in this world values survey wave (in red) are above the global average, four of them towards the top. of my “core” nw europeans (in blue), the netherlands, germany, france, and norway are all below the global average. the anglo nations scored, for the most part, below the fbd nations, but above the global average. i’m surprised at how low china and hong kong score:

wvs - family very important

and here are the nations sorted by those who responded that friends were the most important to them. the “core” europeans are all above the global average, but so are jordan, iraq, and morocco. again china and hong kong score very low:

wvs - friends very important

finally, here’s the data sorted by the difference between the “family” responses and the “friends” responses (family responses minus friends responses). towards the top are the societies with the widest difference between how important they feel family is versus friends — so they, presumably, value family much more than friends. towards the bottom are the societies with the smallest difference between how important family and friends are. all of my “core” europeans are below the global average, most well below. great britain, the netherlands, norway, and sweden are in the lowest quarter of the table, showing how — comparatively speaking — there’s not a very great difference in how these populations view family and friends. three of the five fbd marriage societies are above the global average. hong kong scores surprisingly low — as does ethiopia! maybe i shouldn’t be so surprised at that:

wvs - family friends very important - difference
_____

update 12/29: i took a look at the documentation of the values surveys for some of the countries for which i or someone else thought the results were kinda surprising (china, ethiopia, georgia, cyprus). here’s what i found:

– china: seems to be a pretty good quality survey. the researchers (from the Research Center for Contemporary China, Peking University) did conduct surveys in all regions of the country (i was concerned that maybe they only focused on beijing or something). two things that are a little concerning to me: 1) the sample size is 1,991. is that representative for a population of 1.3 billion? seems to me like it wouldn’t be, but what do i know about stats (not much)? 2) they interviewed more older people than younger people (aged 18-29). they figured that’s ’cause so many younger people are migrant workers and so just weren’t at “home” when these surveys were done. which is interesting given the results ’cause i would’ve thought that family would be more important to older generations in china than to younger ones, but perhaps not.

– ethiopia: there was a big problem with the ethiopia survey. i’ll just quote from the report [pg. 13]:

“Respondents (and interviewers) had IMMENSE difficulty interpreting scales with opposing statements on either side of a 10 point scale. They tended to give an answer of agreement or not for either statements separately rather than selecting a number to indicate their answer on the continuum between the two statements. A large amount of time had to be spent in each interview explaining (over and over again!) that a score below 5 indicated agreement in varying degrees of strength with the statement on the left, 5 and 6 meant a lack of agreement or neutral feeling towards both statements with a forced preference to one, and a score between 7 and 10 indicated varying degrees of agreement with the statement on the right. Attempts at utilising the ‘counting stones’ scale assistance technique AND attempts at adapted show card representations failed as respondents were too confused by the fact that there were two statements involved in each question.”

the friends and family answers were not on a ten point scale, but they were on a four point scale (very/rather/not very/not at all important). perhaps that confused the respondents as well?

also, the report says that the interviews were conducted in amharic. well, iwitbb** only 29% of the ethiopian population speaks amharic. hmmmmm.

**if wikipedia is to be believed.

– georgia: seems to be a pretty good quality survey, except — abkhazia and ossetia were NOT included (*sigh* — well, what can you do?) — neither were some regions that were occupied by the russians at the time (are they still?).

– cyprus: the respondents in cyprus comprised 550 greek cypriots and 500 turkish cypriots [pg. 24 of report]. however, iwitbb, ca. 80% of cypriots are greek while only ca. 18% of cypriots are turkish. having said that, i would’ve thought that the presence of so many turkish cypriots in the survey would’ve made the difference between the “family” vs. “friends” score higher. it would be interesting to know — which i don’t — the areas of turkey from which the ancestors of today’s turkish cypriots hailed.
_____

(note: comments do not require an email. “I have no friends, only relations!”)

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19 Comments

  1. I think the definitions of “family” and “friends” are too murky to draw any strong conclusions from this.

    In a highly inbred society, most of your friends will in fact be extended family. Maybe so extended that you don’t even think of them as family anymore, but relatively closely related to you nonetheless.

    Reply

  2. Perhaps the only surprise I found here was Georgia.

    It was considered extremely corrupt under Shevardnadze but to have been lifted up under Saakashvili (transformed – as per his supporters; hidden under the surface or suppressed by a 4x increase in the incarceration rate – as per his detractors).

    But this would indicate that Georgians are fundamentally a pretty transparent people. This goes against what was perceived to be the case until 2005 or so, and for that matter against Georgian stereotypes in the Soviet Union.

    Does anyone know what Georgia’s traditional family structure is like?

    Reply

  3. The latter, I think.

    What’s interesting is that it seems to confirm a lot of hbdchick’s theories.

    As expected peoples like Swedes and Brits love both family and especially friends. They are therefore very altruistic.

    Slavs, Arabs and Meds care a lot about their family but don’t nearly so much for their friends. Hence their corruption and low trust. The greater fertility rates and different family structure of Arabs furthermore makes their societies even more nepotistic than those of Italy or Russia.

    Hong Kong cares least about family, and little about friends; furthermore, that China is also nearby demonstrates that this is not the result of HK being a metropolis but due to the Sinic element. This might explain the tendency of HK and now China itself to a kind of atomized libertarianism at the individual level.

    Reply

  4. @ihtg – “I think the definitions of ‘family’ and ‘friends’ are too murky to draw any strong conclusions from this.”

    yup. like i said, i’m assuming here that “friends” means unrelated individuals, but that’s a big assumption!

    Reply

  5. @anatoly – “Perhaps the only surprise I found here was Georgia…. Does anyone know what Georgia’s traditional family structure is like?”

    yes, i was surprised at georgia, too. i thought family would be much more important than friends. don’t know what the georgian family structure is like. i would’ve assumed extended family was important — like with the chechens (but don’t tell the georgians i said that! or the chechens for that matter…) — but perhaps that’s not really the case with the georgians. will have to find out!

    Reply

  6. @linton – “Seems to me that those who don’t care much about family don’t care much about friends either.”

    not when you look at the differences, i think. those towards the top of the last table — those populations in which family is really important, friends are really not.

    Reply

  7. @anatoly – “Hong Kong cares least about family, and little about friends; furthermore, that China is also nearby demonstrates that this is not the result of HK being a metropolis but due to the Sinic element. This might explain the tendency of HK and now China itself to a kind of atomized libertarianism at the individual level.”

    i have to say that i’m still a bit surprised by the results from china — and to some extent hong kong. i would’ve predicted that family would’ve been much more important. surprise! (^_^)

    Reply

  8. China anecdote: read this somewhere recently (can’t remember where) a parent’s advice to a son (this was during the Cultural Revolution?): Don’t make close friends because they can betray you. Back stabbing seems to be a regular of Communist China — witness the Bo Xilai affair. Or Mao’s treatment of his colleagues. Of course you could say the same thing about Stalin.

    Luke

    Reply

  9. You’re ‘surprised’ by various results because you form ridiculous, sweeping theories that, most of the time, speak to your biases. ;-)

    “Slavs, Arabs and Meds care a lot about their family but don’t nearly so much for their friends. Hence their corruption and low trust”

    Give us a decent explanation on the position of Cyprus while you’re at it, though.

    Reply

  10. @menoracist – “Give us a decent explanation on the position of Cyprus while you’re at it, though.”

    i don’t know the first thing about cyprus so i ain’t gonna say anything about it. i’ll let you know when i’ve read up on the place.

    @menoracist – “‘Slavs, Arabs and Meds care a lot about their family but don’t nearly so much for their friends. Hence their corruption and low trust'”

    i’m afraid that wasn’t a very accurate paraphrasing of “the theory” (which is, of course, a working theory). feel free to give it another shot tho.

    Reply

  11. @HBDC: Re: your surprise at the China results, I can understand your feelings on this! I must admit, when I first saw them, I felt that they were pretty much as i had expected. FWIW, here are my thoughts on this:

    Chinese are, and have long been, in extensive contact with family. Strong, broad, clan-like structure, many cousins, much intergenerational contact, much intergenerational “influencing” of younger and weaker generations. And with “influencing”, I generally mean older people berating younger people about what to do (tiger parenting is an aspect of this).

    This was great in the past. But from my contact with young people, it seems to be often perceived as a negative kind of contact, and the desire is for a more “independent” lifestyle. Young Chinese not infrequently gripe about familial influence being negative in various ways. Affluent Chinese who can tend to go for a more atomized (they call it “Western”) structure, sending their parents to fancy geronto-farms – I actually live in such a place, and am surrounded by older parents, and young “second wives”, being sent out here by affluent mainlanders. Hong Kong-ese will tend to a greater extent to have actualized the goal of an affluent, atomized family, because clan support now is just less important than it was in the past. China is undergoing the transition into outbreeding, and the ideal is a few steps in front of the reality.

    So how does this affect the stats? Well, In many Western societies you might be inclined to “lie up” about how important family is to you, IE even though you talk to your mom on the phone once per month, she’s still “very important”. In CN, when you’re still living with your dad and maybe even granddad as an adult, I’d expect the inclination to be more towards minimization of their role in your life, because that’s your ideal. Sort of like how men and women “lie” in different ways about their number of sexual partners.

    The survey asked “how important is family”. But I suspect that if the survey had in stead asked “how much time do you spend with family”, much of China would likely have a very high number. But I also think that Chinese family is rapidly westernizing, and affluent China will soon look a lot like Japan.

    Reply

  12. red’s comment is always good to keep in mind. People answer such questions against some background, which might be “what we used to do around here,” or “what I think peer nations and cultures do.” China has had a one-child policy for well over a generation now. The importance of family must be considered in the context of “compared to what?”

    Reply

  13. re: China – “they interviewed more older people than younger people (aged 18-29). they figured that’s ’cause so many younger people are migrant workers and so just weren’t at “home” . . .

    I guess they didn’t bother with the 600 million Chinese who live in rural areas either, most of whom (the older ones especially) are “at home.” This sounds more like a survey of the 15 percent of Chinese society who have the right to live in a city under the hukou system. I suspect China’s PISA scores reflect the same bias.

    Luke

    Reply

  14. @luke – “I guess they didn’t bother with the 600 million Chinese who live in rural areas either….”

    no, i don’t think that they missed them. urban vs. rural areas aren’t specifically mentioned in the report (at least not as far as i could see), but the sampling method was apparently based on some sort of grid system — the country was divided up into half-square degrees of latitude & longitude (whatever they are) adjusted for population. sounds pretty random to me, so rural areas shouldn’t have been overlooked.

    Reply

  15. @redzen – “China is undergoing the transition into outbreeding, and the ideal is a few steps in front of the reality…. In CN, when you’re still living with your dad and maybe even granddad as an adult, I’d expect the inclination to be more towards minimization of their role in your life, because that’s your ideal.”

    that’s really interesting! china is really a society undergoing enormous changes, huh? (geez … they have been for the last hundred years or so!) i wonder how much of what you describe applies to all segments of chinese society, or mostly to affluent urbanites?

    @redzen – “The survey asked ‘how important is family’. But I suspect that if the survey had in stead asked ‘how much time do you spend with family’, much of China would likely have a very high number.”

    i’ll have to poke around to see if i can find a question like that. thanks!

    Reply

  16. “China is undergoing the transition into outbreeding”

    I think this is the general case with industrialization and urbanization if the culture doesn’t explicitly prevent it with arranged marriage.

    It seems to me manorialism, magnified by the church cousin ban, did the same thing that urbanization did later i.e. mix inbred families up. In NW europe this phenomenon happened slowly and gradually – maybe allowing time for adaptations to it to occur? This was followed by a second much quicker and more sudden mixing event with the coming of the industrial revolution – in itself possibly the product of the first process?

    Other places it is happening in reverse. Industrialization is happening first and people moving to the cities and inbred rural villagers mixing is creating the outbreeding effect very rapidly although not necessarily with as much time to adapt – although who knows maybe this will turn out better? (Again this doesn’t apply or only partially applies where a population moves to the cities but maintains the same rural marraige pattern.

    If it’s correct that one of the effects of out-breeding is to so loosen familial and clan gravity that it allows for the leap from localism and regionalism to nationalism and to national identity as the primary identity then we might expect a big war as China goes through that phase (as maybe Germany post unification and Japan in the 30s did previously?)

    Reply

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