Why Rely on Friends Instead of Family? The Case of Intergenerational Relations and Civic Engagement in Rural Malawi

Tyler W. Myroniuk, University of Maryland
Christina Prell, University of Maryland

The meaning of friendship has long been debated in sociological literature but generally, friends provide less financial and non-financial support compared to family members who provide substantial amounts of these types of support. We situate our study in Malawi and ask why individuals would rely on friends instead of family members in a crisis. By using longitudinal household data, we not only look at the types of support friends give compared to family (which reflects predominant themes from the literature), but more importantly, the unique traits of individuals who rely on friends instead of family (contrary to social norms) in times of crisis. One’s number of children, exchanges with parents, civic engagement, and perception of being HIV-positive are all associated with relying on friends. This paper also sheds light on the importance of conducting sociological research in atypical contexts in order to test and continue to build theory.

  See paper

Presented in Session 166: Intergenerational Relations