Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-7l5rh Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-27T08:04:44.353Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

8 - The Consequential Stranger: Peripheral Relationships across the Life Span

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2009

Frieder R. Lang
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg, Germany
Karen L. Fingerman
Purdue University, Indiana
Karen L. Fingerman
Child Development and Family Studies, Purdue University, 1269 Fowler House, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1269
Get access


Individuals of all ages encounter social partners with whom they are not intimate (e.g., cousins, classmates, neighbors, church members). Peripheral ties arise in daily life. These relationships link individuals to larger social structures and provide opportunities for cultural models, novel stimulation, identity exploration, and social support. In childhood, peripheral partners provide opportunities to acquire skills not available through familiar social contacts. In adolescence and young adulthood, they help individuals define themselves and provide information about the culture. In midlife, a proliferation of close ties provides a larger number of peripheral ties. In late life, peripheral ties may offer support or provide for “social reminiscence.” Discussion addresses the function and meaning of peripheral relationships in comparison to close social ties.

The traffic outside the Henderson Childcare Center at the end of the day is a sight to behold. The lot typically contains only fifteen cars during the day. At 5:00 p.m., a horde of fifty vehicles containing parents descends upon the building. To add to the chaos, there is only one driveway through which cars must both enter and exit. Toyotas park on the sidewalk, Volvo station wagons weave in and out, and inevitably, several Pontiac Grand Ams are locked in their spaces while toddlers find their way from care providers to parents. Yet no one honks. No one shouts. Tempers do not flare. Drivers wait patiently as each vehicle maneuvers back onto the street. These parents are not exceptionally virtuous people.

Growing Together
Personal Relationships Across the Life Span
, pp. 183 - 209
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Antonucci, T. C. (2001). Social relations: An examination of social networks, social support, and sense of control. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging. Orlando, FL: Academic Press
Antonucci, T. C., & Akiyama, H. (1987). Social networks in adult life and a preliminary examination of the convoy model. Journal of Gerontology, 42, 519–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Antonucci, T. C., Langfahl, E. S., & Akiyama, H. (2003). Relationships as outcomes and contexts. In F. R. Lang & K. L. Fingerman (Eds.), Growing together: Personal relationships across the life span (Chap. 2). New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRef
Bagwell, C. L., Newcomb, A. F., & Bukowksi, W. M. (1998). Preadolescent friendship and peer rejection as predictors of adult adjustment. Child Development, 69, 140–153CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barker, J. C. (2002). Neighbors, friends, and other nonkin caregivers of community-living dependent elders. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57, S158–S167CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology Monographs, 4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berndt, T. J., Hawkins, J. A., & Hoyle, S. G. (1986). Changes in friendship during a school year: Effects on children's and adolescents' impressions of friendship and sharing with friends. Child Development, 57, 1284–1297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birditt, K. S. (2002). Age and gender differences in reactions to interpersonal tensions: The daily experience of arguments and the avoidance of arguments. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania
Blieszner, R., & Roberto, K. A. (2003). Friendship across the life span: Reciprocity in individual and relationship development. In F. R. Lang & K. L. Fingerman (Eds.), Growing together: Personal relationships across the life span (Chap. 7). New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRef
Bolger, N., & Eckenrode, J. (1991). Social relationships, personality, and anxiety during a major stressful event. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 440–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Briggs, J. (1970). Never in anger: Portrait of an Eskimo family (pp. ;109–146). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1997). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (5th ed.) (pp. ;993–1028). New York: Wiley
Burton, L. M. (1995). Intergenerational patterns of providing care in African-American families with teenage childbearers: Emergent patterns in an ethnographic study. In V. L. Bengtson & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Adult intergenerational relations: Effects of societal change. New York: Springer Publishers
Butler, R. N. (1963). The life review: An interpretation of reminiscence in the aged. Psychiatry, 256, 65–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cantor, M. H. (1979). Neighbors and friends: An overlooked resource in the informal support system. Research on Aging, 1, 434–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54, 165–181CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Caspi, A., Elder, G. H., & Bem, D. J. (1987). Moving against the world: Life-course patterns of explosive children. Developmental Psychology, 23, 308–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chisholm, J. S. (1983). Navajo infancy: An ethological study in child development. New York: Aldine
Cowen, E. L. (1982). Help is where you find it: Four informal helping groups. American Psychologist, 37, 385–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cowen, E. L., Gesten, E. L., Boike, M., Norton, P., Wilson, A. B., & DeStefano, M. A. (1979). Hairdressers as caregivers I: A descriptive profile of interpersonal help-giving involvement. American Journal of Community Psychology, 7, 633–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cowen, E. L., McKim, B. J., & Weisberg, R. P. (1981). Bartenders as informal, interpersonal help-agents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 9, 715–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouter, A. C., & Bumpus, M. F. (2001). Linking parents' work stress to children's and adolescents' psychological adjustment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 156–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: W. W. Norton
Dodge, K. A. (1983). Behavioral antecedents of peer social status. Child Development, 54, 1386–1399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunphy, D. C. (1963). The social structure of urban adolescent peer groups. Sociometry, 26, 230–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society (pp. ;247–273). New York: W. W. Norton
Erikson, E. H., Erikson, J. M., & Kivnick, H. Q. (1986). Vital involvement in old age: The experience of old age in our time. New York: Norton & Company
Fingerman, K. L. (2001). Aging mothers and their adult daughters: A study in mixed emotions. New York: Springer Publishers
Fingerman, K. L., & Birditt, K. S. (in press). Do age differences in close and problematic family networks reflect the pool of available relatives? Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
Fingerman, K. L., & Griffiths, P. C. (1999). Season's greetings: Adults' social contact at the holiday season. Psychology and Aging, 14, 192–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fingerman, K. L., & Hay, E. L. (2002). Searching under the streetlight: Age biases in the personal and family relationships literature. Personal Relationships, 9, 415–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fingerman, K. L., Hay, E. L., Porfeli, E., Mayger, H., & Birditt, K. S. (1999, November). Searching under the streetlight: Laypersons' and researchers' conceptions of important social ties. Symposium paper presented in K. L. Fingerman (chair), “Underresearched topics in social support,” annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, San Francisco, CA
Gardner, K. (1991). Songs at the river's edge: Stories from a Bangladesh village. Chicago, IL: Pluto Press
Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360–1380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hammer, M. (1983). ‘Core’ and ‘extended’ social networks in relation to health and illness. Social Science and Medicine, 17, 405–411CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hansson, R. O., Daleiden, E. L., & Hayslip, B., Jr. (2003). Relational competence across the life span. In F. R. Lang & K. L. Fingerman (Eds.), Growing together: Personal relationships across the life span (Chap. 13). New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRef
Harris, J. R. (1995). Where is the child's environment? A group socialization theory of development. Psychological Review, 102, 458–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harris, J. R. (2000). Socialization, personality development, and the child's environment: Comment on Vandell (2000). Developmental Psychology, 36, 711–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hartup, W. W. (1989). Social relationships and their developmental significance. American Psychologist, 44, 120–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hartup, W. W., French, D. C., Laursen, B., Johnston, M. K., & Ogawa, J. R. (1993). Conflict and friendship relations in middle childhood: Behavior in a closed-field situation. Child Development, 64, 445–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hay, E. L., Birditt, K. S., Cichy, K., & Fingerman, K. L. (2001). Age differences in close, problematic, and ambivalent social ties. In K. L. Fingerman (chair), “Complexities in socioemotional experiences,” symposium presented at the Gerontological Society of America meeting, Chicago, IL, November 2001
Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley
Hinde, R. A. (1979). Towards understanding relationships. New York: Academic Press
Hinde, R. A. (1995). A suggested structure for a science of relationships. Personal Relationships, 2, 1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hogan, D. (1985). Parental influences on the timing of early life transitions. In Z. Blau (Ed.), Current perspectives on aging and the life cycle (pp. ;1–59). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press
House, J. S., Kahn, R. L., McLeod, J. D., & Williams, D. (1985). Measures and concepts of social support. In S. Cohen & S. L. Syme (Eds.), Social support and health (pp. ;83–108). Orlando, FL: Academic Press
Howes, C. (1988). Peer interaction of young children. Monograph of the Society for Research on Child Development, 53 (Serial 217)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Howes, C. (1998). The earliest friendships. In W. M. Bukowski & A. F. Newcomb (Eds.), The company they keep: Friendship in childhood and adolescence (pp. ;66–86). New York: Cambridge University Press
Hughes, R., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (1996). Social class issues in family life education. Family Relations, 45, 175–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, C. L. (1995). Determinants of adaptation of oldest old black Americans. Journal of Aging Studies, 9, 231–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, C., & Barer, B. (1997). Life beyond 85 years: The aura of survivorship. New York: Springer Publishing
Jones, E. E., & Nisbett, R. E. (1972). The actor and observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behaviors. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.), Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behavior. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press
Kagan, J. (1984). The nature of the child. New York: Basic Books
Kahn, R. L., & Antonucci, T. C. (1980). Convoys over the life course: Attachment, roles, and social support. Life-span Development, 3, 253–286Google Scholar
Kelley, H. H. (1983). Love and commitment. In H. H. Kelley et al. (Eds.), Close relationships (pp. ;265–314). New York: W. H. Freeman
Kohn, M. L. (1977). Class and conformity: A study in values. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press
Kuperschmidt, J. B., & Coie, J. D. (1990).Preadolescent peer status, aggression and school adjustment as predictors of externalizing behaviors in adolescence. Child Development, 61, 1350–1362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lachman, M. E. (Ed.) (2001). Handbook of midlife development. New York: Wiley
Lang, F. R. (2000). Endings and continuity of social relationships: Maximizing intrinsic benefits within personal networks when feeling near to death. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17, 157–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lang, F. R. (2001). Regulation of social relationships in later adulthood. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 56, P321–P326CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lang, F. R. (2003). Social motivation across the life span. In F. R. Lang & K. L. Fingerman (Eds.), Growing together: Personal relationships across the life span (Chap. 14). New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRef
Larson, R., & Richards, M. (1994). Divergent realities: The emotional lives of mothers, fathers, and adolescents. New York: Basic Books
Laursen, B., & Collins, W. A. (1994). Interpersonal conflict during adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 197–209CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lorenz, K. Z. (1952). King Solomon's ring (trans. M. K. Wilson). New York: Thomas Y. Crowell
Maccoby, E. E. (2002). Gender and group process: A developmental perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 54–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mangelsdorf, S. C., Shapiro, J. R., & Marzolf, D. (1995). Developmental and temperamental differences in emotion regulation in infancy. Child Development, 66, 1817–1828CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Marsden, P. V., & Campbell, K. E. (1984). Measuring tie strength. Social Forces, 63, 482–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morgan, D. L., Neal, M. B., & Carder, P. (1996). The stability of core and peripheral networks over time. Social Networks, 19, 9–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Noller, P., Feeney, J. A., & Peterson, C. (2001). Personal relationships across the lifespan. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor and Francis
Parker, J. G., & Asher, S. R. (1987). Peer relations and later personal adjustment: Are low-accepted children at risk?Psychological Bulletin, 102, 357–389CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Parker, J. G., & Asher, S. R. (1993). Friendship and friendship quality in middle childhood: Links with peer group acceptance and feelings of loneliness and social dissatisfaction. Developmental Psychology, 29, 611–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Repetti, R. (1989). Effects of daily workload on subsequent behavior during marital interactions: The roles of social withdrawal and spouse support. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 651–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology. Philadelphia: Temple University Press
Rusbult, C. E., Johnson, D. J., & Morrow, G. D. (1986). Determinants and consequences of exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect: Responses to dissatisfaction in adult romantic involvements. Human Relations, 39, 45–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rusbult, C. E., Verette, J., Whitney, G. A., Slovik, L. F., & Lipkus, I. (1991). Accommodation processes in close relationships: Theory and preliminary empirical evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 53–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Selman, R. (1981). The child as a friendship philosopher. In S. R. Asher & J. M. Gottman (Eds.), The development of children's friendships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, B. J., Hood, W. R., & Sherif, C. W. (1961). Intergroup cooperation and competition: The robbers cave experiment. Norman, OK: University Book Exchange
Shostak, M. (1981). Nisa: The life and words of a !Kung woman. New York: Random House
Spitze, R. A. (1945). Hospitalism: An inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditioning in early childhood. Psychoanalytic Studies of the Child, 1, 53–74. New York: International Universities PressCrossRef
Sroufe, L. A. (1977). Wariness of strangers and the study of infant development. Child Development, 48, 731–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: W. W. Norton
Takahashi, K. (2003). Close relationships across the life span: Toward a theory of relationship types. In F. R. Lang & K. L. Fingerman (Eds.), Growing together: Personal relationships across the life span (Chap. 6). New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRef
Vandell, D. L. (2000). Parents, peer groups, and other socializing influences. Developmental Psychology, 36, 699–710CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wallace, R. A. (1973). The ecology and evolution of animal behavior. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear Publishing Company
Wegener, B. (1991). Job mobility and social ties: Social resources, prior job, and status attainment. American Sociological Review, 56, 60–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Werner, E. E. (1989). Children of the garden island. Scientific American, 260, 107–111CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Werner, E. E. (1995). Resilience in development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 81–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats