The 5th Conference of the European Sociological Association

         Session: Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

                       August 28-September 1, 2001

                                     Helsinki, Finland










                                  Agnes UTASI

      Social solidarity and integration in a new market economy:

                Aspects of confidential relationships

           ( Paper to be presented at the conference)
















           University of Szeged Department of Sociology

     Correspondence: Institute for Political Science of the

                      Hungarian  Academy of Sciences

                     H-1399 Budapest, Országház u. 30.

          Tel.: (361)3111420  / e-mail:UTASI@MTAPTI.HU



Social solidarity and integration in a new market economy:

                Aspects of confidential relationships


A growing number of people use the Internet on regular basis and many of them have virtual friends and some of them have even found real friends thanks to the web. Technical advances like the emergence of the web, the ever growing popularity of telephones, etc. might contribute to strengthening relationships but are no substitutes for direct human contact. An international survey conducted fifteen years ago on the relationship-networks of seven countries showed that as regards keeping contact with parents and friends on the phone Hungary was lagging far behind the other six countries in the survey (ISSP, TÁRKI, 1986, N=10 700). In the aforementioned period only 10-12% of the population had a telephone line in Hungary. However the extent of respondents regularly keeping in touch with their parents, that is visiting them, was significantly higher than in countries better equipped in terms of telecommunication (Utasi, 1991).


Social integration is maintained first and foremost through real relationships, especially through strong ties represented by regular visits and stays. A recent survey has provided further evidence for this claim. In the survey respondents had fifteen different options representing factors that help social integration, their task was to pick the one they considered the most effective. The results showed that illness or being disabled are the most important reasons for isolation, lack of integration. According to the survey people consider ’to have friends’ (89.2%) and ’to have family and children’ (81.0%) the most important conditions of avoiding isolation. (EURÓPA 2000, BKE, Házt. Kut. Csop. N=1500) This shows that an overwhelming majority of the respondents considered real confidential strong relationships essential. While altruism and selflessness are fundamental conditions of non-virtual relationships, these values are supressed by the virulent tendencies of individualization, financial growth, the never-ceasing competition for ’progress’ on the social ladder, the meritocratic value-orientation urging ever-increasing performance.


Quality of life surveys dating from the 1960s and 1970s had already established that human relationships are essential constituents of ’well-being’, happiness and satisfaction. At the same time both sociologists and demographers had noticed changes in the workings of relationships (Allardt, E.,1975). Most hit by changes corresponding to the tendency of individualization and the spreading of civilization were partnerships. The need for independence, for autonomy was on the rise and consequently a growing number of people wanted to lead a life adapted to individual needs and self-fulfillment. The need for self-fulfillment together with growing financial autonomy and independence stemming from civilizatory welfare disentangles first the extra-familiar ties which rely on

self-imposed altruism and ’piety’. Most effected by this increased need for self-fulfillment is the longevity of partnerships. The number of marriages ending in divorce, the number of non-married couples living together and the age of people getting married have all increased. (Cseh-Szombathy L.,1994, Somlai, P., 1999, Tóth O., 1994 Pongrácz T.-né, 1994 S. Molnár E.,1997 Utasi Á.,1999, Szücs Z.,1999)


The international relationship-survey conducted before the political changes (in the 1980s) showed that in Hungary strong family-relation ties have contributed to making a living and reaching financial security mainly by means of instrumental motivation. Cooperation within the family was intensive. Workplace and neighborhood acquaintances were also sustained mainly by instrumental motivation. On the other hand the number of respondents picking friends and especially close friends from the options was very low. To sum up, in the 1980s social solidarity and especially instrumental assistance was very well-sustained due to the network of strong relationships whereas emotional and expressive assistance was lagging far behind. (Angelusz-Tardos, 1988, Utasi, 1990, 1991).


The Realignment of Interpersonal Relations in the Emerging Market Economy


Following the political changes the rapidly growing prosperity of the higher ranking, financially better equipped social strata and the tendency for individualization together with the desire to get rich inevitably led to a loosening of relations considered ‘uneconomic’ and also to the upgrading of financially valuable relations. In the meantime as a reaction to the growing social financial inequalities there has been an intensification of family ties among those lacking resources.


The new emphasis on democracy, freedom and individual choice was reflected in the growing significance of values such as autonomy, independence and respect for others’ individuality. Whereas the importance of respect for differences and the appreciation of individual performance was on the rise, there was a corresponding ebb of solidarity towards people lagging behind in this new wealth-oriented society. The higher one gets on the social ladder, the wealthier, the more competitive he is with a higher probability of ‘meritocratic success’, the less he inclines to accept that the state should support those at the bottom end of the financial spectrum (e.g. people out of job or students coming from low-income families) (Utasi, 2000). Meanwhile the trust in individual effort and achievement has intensified.


In the new democratic political system criticism against the ‘regime’, the government and state representatives is no longer prosecuted. Fear of retaliation and its companion servile attitude towards power has declined. As a side-effect of this process the prestige of state authorities had eroded. Most spectacularly so in the case of offices and authorities representing political ‘self-government’ and also for the policy-making elite. Loyalty and trust towards them sharply declines. The majority of Hungarians lost trust in their government and the Parliament.


Unfortunately the growing respect for individual rights and the rule of law in the new democracy had encouraged criminal wrong-doing. Vandalism in the streets following political and sport events, causing damage in public places had become frequent. Disorderliness and crime in general is on the rise. As a counter-step the rich has moved from cities to suburban districts and nearby villages. The most likely sights at weekends in city centers, apart from tourists, are homeless people roving the streets with large plastic bags containing all their belongings and a few well-dressed people doing their best to ignore this unpleasant sight.


The past ten years had seen the birth and proliferation of ‘security’ enterprises guarding the properties and belongings of the ‘privileged’. Rented flats had given away to private flats and as these ‘private owners’ can’t afford to employ ‘security men’ and receptionist there has been a boom on the market of locks, steel bars and alarm-systems all unmistakable signs of the growing ‘mistrust towards others’ that coexists with the aforementioned ‘respect for others’. These devices symbolize the fear of owners, the decline of trust towards ‘others’. The growing untidiness in public places further supports the feeling of lack of security, intensifies the isolation of individuals thus undermining and damaging the cohesion of society and correspondingly the extent of trust towards ‘others’.


The nuclearization of families signals the decline of socially integrative strong relationships. Less and less people feel obliged to sustain broken marriages. The growing need for autonomy transforms the traditional institutions of marriage and family. People are more likely to follow their individual judgments and thus ending imperfect relations to give way to new relations. Divorce has always been an accepted reality and the extent of marriages ending in divorce was high but recently there is a new tendency of couples living together without getting married and consequently an increase in the number of children born out of marital ties (though some of these couples get married after their child is born) (Szücs Z., 1999). The growing number of couples living in permanent relationships without being married and the postponement of marriage shows a reluctance to enter into lifelong, i.e. ‘eternal’ bonds in preference of partnerships demanding a lower level of altruism and sharing.


The Decrease of Trust Towards ‘Others’ and the Growing Importance of Confidential Strong Relationships


Contrary to the above described tendencies it would be a mistake to assume that in post-communist Hungary disorderliness, crime, untidiness, lack of trust and the decrease of strong relationships are more pressing problems than in the established democracies of the West. International surveys have shown that in modern democratic societies based on economic rationality the process of individualization led to similar changes over the past decade with the exception a few Asian democracies (Fukuyama, 2000). It remains to be seen whether the changes induced by the democratic and economic changes in Hungary should be regarded as part of this general tendency or specific to Hungary and if so in what degree.


As we have indicated traditional relationships 15 years ago were still based on trust and their operation was intense and wide in its scope. The trust that supported economic corporation reached beyond the circle of relatives and friends to that of colleagues and neighbours (Utasi, 1988, Sik E., 1988). However this trust has gradually eroded and its scope is now limited to a much smaller circle -- matters of confidence are increasingly kept and discussed within the closer circle of the family which even excludes further relatives (Utasi, 1994). Many interpreted these changes as a consequence of the anti-religious policy of the Communist regime that undermined all tradition and the traditional values of communities. While not denying that traditional social values are losing ground, it is to be pointed out that the ebb of trust and the corresponding weakening of social integration should be explained in a wider context of contributing factors. The findings of empirical surveys show that social integration based on traditional community values was still largely operational in the days of Communism. It was not before the introduction of market economy that instrumental cooperation and ‘naive piety’ that characterizes traditional communities were radically pushed in the background (Weber, M., 1982), whereas the need for the meritocratic appreciation of performance, individual ambitions and achievements has intensified. One of the main reasons for these changes was the acceptance of the radical shift towards social inequalities by the elite and its endorsement by labeling it a ‘transient’ phenomenon that is a necessary prerequisite of the ‘financial strengthening of the middle-classes’. The difference in average wages between the upper 10% and the bottom 10% was 380% in 1982, this inequality rose to 730% in 1994 which represents a doubling of the difference (Andorka, R., 1996, Ferge, Zs., 2000). By adopting this practice the governments gave priority to the further gain in prosperity of the well-to-do and letting the cohesion and integration of the majority fall, thus further increasing the inequalities.


The aim of the present study is to unravel the ways in which the mentioned economic and political changes effected the instrumentally properly operating strong human relationships and mutual trust. The foci of our investigation are the analysis of the characteristics of trust and specifically of confidential relationships within the nuclear family and outside the family: friendship ties.


Following the political changes in Hungary the lack of resources (Dahrendorf, 1990) meant that relationships confidential and strong enough to provide financial backing and capital were essential to start new businesses. Sociological studies had shown that this need is most likely to be satisfied from within the family, just as tradition would dictate. The future of such new businesses being highly uncertain, thus their financial support being highly hazardous, they could only rely on family members as sources of capital. Another consideration that helped inter-family financing was the idea that the capital could be repaid for the next generation as well. Accordingly most of the small businesses, the so-called forced entrepreneurs started off with help from within the family that could take the form either of financial support or providing labor. (Lengyel Gy. 1995) The acquisition of privatized property and getting the necessary financing was often made possible by confidential information passed on by friends thus capitalizing on relationships. (Utasi, 1994)


This is of course not something peculiar to Hungary. Many companies and enterprises, even some multinational giants all around the world are run by families or their influence is maintained by having members of the family on the board, so as to protect the families interests. The rationality and practice of collaboration within the family to assist enterprises has strengthened in Hungary since the fall of Communism. One unique aspect of this process was that while previously the regrouping of resources stemming from connection capital could result only in relatively low profit because of the regulations limiting private profit, in post-communist Hungary the same connection capital by helping the acquisition of privatized property or to start a new business yielded extremely high profit ratios. The intensive cooperation and confidential relationship between members of the nuclear family and friends thus remained strong under the changed conditions but its content and result had significantly altered in the various strata yielding strongly diverging profits.


Traditional relationships operated mainly through instrumental motivation in the past as well. Providing help in building a home, interchange of products to lower costs and mutual labor-assistance was more typical than emotional ties. The sudden emergence of unemployment among not only the unqualified but also the well-qualified strengthened the cooperation and mutual assistance within the families and intensified the co-reliance and self-protection among confidential friends. Being jobless was something that the family considered a shame and tried to keep secret. This emotion reduced the ties outside the circle of the confidants. (Utasi, 1994)


The period following the political changes saw the intensification of confidential relationships and friendships that were able to provide resources all along the social spectrum. Friendship especially for those with a higher status could bring access to resources simply because it is the people belonging to the upper strata of society who have friends. (Utasi, 1990, Angelusz R.-Tardos R., 1988, Albert F.-David B., 1988).


Members of the new governments tended to appoint friends for confidential positions. The circle of those ‘in power’ was recruited from the circle of confidential friends, relatives, ex-classmates (Mills, C. W., 1951, Weber, M., 1987). Party leaders also tended to surround themselves with close friends and ex-schoolmates. In local communities, small or medium sized towns people of higher status could invariably find a relative or friend who could provide useful information if need be. ‘Influential and confidential friendships and affinities’ are also extremely effective in a small country like Hungary (Utasi, Á.-A. Gergely, A-Becskeházi, A., 1996).


The discussed changes had limited the scope of trust to the circle of close agnates and friends. A survey made in 2000 showed that regular contact within the nuclear family remained as intensive as it was before the political changes. Almost all the respondents would visit their parents at least once a month, and only 2.8% falls below this frequency. The contact with children is similarly intense, but there is a slight shift: 5.5% of the respondents sees his/her children with lower frequency than once a month.


Since the earlier survey telephone has become the general means of communication. 62.4 % of the respondents makes a phone call to his/her parents at least once a month. The same figure for parents talking to their children on the phone is 72.8%. (Európa, 2000, BKE N=1500) In 1986 the figure for people staying in phone contact with their parents was just a few percent. Our previous studies have indicated that in Hungary the role of emotion in family relationships is less significant than that of instrumental motivation. However regardless of the kind of motivation operating in connecting people within the nuclear family, data shows that ties between relatives is still very strong and trust is undiminished.


A survey conducted last year investigated the intensity of trust and also its direction, i.e. who the respondents put their trust in. There was a scale indicating 4 levels of trust. Full trust was indicated by assigning number 4 to the given category, while number 1 would indicate no trust. Categories to be evaluated were: the government, political parties, NATO, the Parliament, God, the respondent himself and his family. (Demokrácia, MTA PTI, 2000, Simon)


According to the survey people trust first and foremost themselves with an average value of 3.7. Family-members, relatives came second: 3.6. These figures indicate almost unconditional trust. However there is a well-marked inconsistency in the value-structure of the respondents: the first of the top two categories indicates that one can rely only on oneself and this reflects an individualistic value-priority. The category coming second contradicts our previous conclusion as it indicates the endorsement of traditional value-priorities based on family-ties and kinship. The rest of the evaluated categories – including neighbors -- received a far less favorable index ranging 1.5-2.6.


68.3 % of the respondents unconditionally trust their family and relatives, while only 7% evaluated the government similarly. (Unfortunately ‘friends’ was not included in the categories, but we have grounds to suppose that they would have received high marks, close to that of relatives.)


Trust in governments has sharply dropped as it was demonstrated by surveys conducted in the U.S. As a tendency policymakers seem to have lost public trust in liberal democracies. In 1958 in the U.S. less than a quarter (23%) of all respondents claimed that they would never or hardly ever trust their government, four decades later the same figure had tripled (1995: 71%-85%) (Fukuyama, 2000). At the present the number of people considering their government untrustworthy or almost completely untrustworthy is somewhat lower in Hungary (2000: 60.7%) (Demokrácia, MTA PTI, 2000).


Indices indicating mistrust are similarly high for categories designating people outside the closer circle of confidants, i.e. ‘others’ or ‘people in general’. The Hungarian survey shows that 2 out of 3 respondents (68%) thought that one cannot trust or hardly ever others (Demokrácia, MTA PTI, 2000). The figures indicating mistrust towards ‘others’, ‘aliens’ is somewhat higher in Hungary than in the U.S. However it is worth noticing that the survey dating from 1997 showed a progressive loss of confidence in ‘others’ in the U.S. Three decades earlier the number of respondents saying that “one can trust or almost always trust” people in general was ten percent higher than the number of those saying “one cannot trust” others. By the second half of the 90s tables were turned and the majority of people would say that “one cannot or hardly ever trust others” (60%) (Fukuyama, 2000).



Friendship: a chosen confidential relationship



The trust in friends is similar in quality to the unconditional trust in family-members and relatives. We believe that among confidential relationships the most significant one, next to the family-kinship relationships, is friendship. Naturally, having confidential friends is not as common as having relatives one can rely on. Friendship is a chosen relationship that may generate solidarity and mutual resources without a formalized framework and bring social integration. It can operate successfully without legal or institutional regulations. Different schools consider different motivations to be dominant in forming friendships, but most would agree that it is not one but a set of motivations that shape friendships. Some claim that mutually attractive individual characteristics, attitudes are the main factors. Others would argue that friendships emerge on an emotional basis, that is the attraction is driven by emotion. Most experts would consider similarities in structural and cultural basics to be the determining factor is generating friendships. (Adams, B. 1979)


In our opinion friendships are primarily determined by social and structural factors, but emotion as a decisive relational motivation is essential in developing friendships. Nevertheless among the contributing and sustaining factors to this relationship – friendship not being different in this respect from all other human relationships – aim, value, tradition and emotion can all be present (Weber, M., 1987), but certainly the various motivations will have a different weight in contributing to friendships developing between individuals with different backgrounds. Similarity, homogeneity and endogamy is among the defining characteristics of friendships. (Laumann, E.O. 1973) (In 1998 Lawer's survey: 83.9 % of first friends of lawyers, 86.2 % of second friends have a university degree, 74.8 % of their spouses have a university degree).


Compared with bygone ages today’s people have a greater freedom in choosing friends. Our ancestors were limited in their choices by rigid boundaries between estates formulated on the basis of birth. Despite the increased freedom the way in which friends are chosen is characterized by cultural and status homogeneity much like in the case of spouses. Why homogeneity has such a strong effect on choosing friends is not a question that could easily be answered. Most probably the answer lies in the fact that making one’s choice has both affective and cognitive components: the identical structural spot is the dominant field of the selection, this is where attraction, sympathy takes root, and at the same time where the cognitive process of getting to know the chosen person extensively takes place together with the more or less rational mapping of his social merits. As a result of the free choice of those befriending each other, the similar social values facilitate the trouble-free interchange of connections. (We presume that friendship and marriage are brought about by a similar cognitive force, but the affection involved certainly differs.)


Homogeneity prevails primarily among people having similar status and prestige. Arguably homogeneity in finding friends is primarily the result of the prevalence of the prestige-principle. Following and accepting Weber’s theory on the stratification by birth and lifestyle, we claim that men of similar status prefer  similar means of living, they choose their friends, spouses and ‘commensals’ from similar circles (commensalism) (Weber, M. 1987). Following the prestige-principle, we suppose that friends predominantly occupy a similar position in the social hierarchy.


The most important characteristic of confidential relationships and thus of friendships from the viewpoint of social integration is solidarity. Solidarity towards others could be expressed by providing material goods or labor, but also by providing symbolic resources. This last category would involve useful information, mediation, intercession, emotional support, joint visits of public events or spending time together. The resources provided to each other might transform into other types of capital or wealth, and eventually they might contribute to the integration of society. (Wellman, B. 1990, Bourdieue, P. 1986, 1980).


In our present study we define friendships as chosen confidential relationships with emotional ties, where the partners involved help each other by conveying solidarity by activating emotional resources in certain situations. We also presume that many instrumental relationships may over a period of cooperation transform and deepen into friendship bonds. In our previous studies we made a distinction between ‘instrumental friendship’ and ‘emotional friendship’ by saying that the former lacked emotional assistance. Friendship is a relationship predominantly based on emotionally motivated selection, it involves mutual solidarity and is usually characterized by some kind of homogeneity.



‘Emotional’ and ‘instrumental’ relationships



The international survey conducted in 1986 showed that unlike in other countries of the survey the majority of friendships in Hungary derives from workplace relationships. (In Hungary 53.6% of friendships develops between fellow-workers, while the corresponding figure in other countries varied between 5-32%.) In ‘instrumental friendships’ based on working together emotion is of lesser importance. There is no denying that all relationships are motivated to some degree by emotions, but dominantly ‘instrumental friendships’ often end with the ceasing of cooperation (change of job, termination of a project, completion of building a house), while friendships hailing from school-days can survive decade-long intervals with no common activity.


According to the aforementioned fifteen-year-old survey 2 out of 3 Hungarians (64.4%) claimed to have a friend, that is being party to an ‘instrumental’ and/or ‘emotional’ friendship (Utasi, 1990). However 1 out of 3 Hungarian respondents claimed to have no friends at all and this was the highest corresponding figure in this international survey (35.6%).[1]


As the above definition shows we consider similar structural position and emotional motivation as binding element crucial in forming friendships. The categorization of friendships as ‘instrumental’ or ‘emotional’ was based on the presence or lack of the emotional motivation.


In our study a friendship was considered ‘emotional’ if the respondents claimed to share their grief with their friend (at least as second person) caused by some personal problems like being upset, depressed, having had a fall-out with their partner/spouse, etc. 1 out of 2 friendships in Hungary are emotional according to the survey, that is 1 out of 2 respondents would share their emotional problems with their friend. With the rest of the friendships instrumental motivation is the dominant cohesive factor. Overall one can conclude that among Hungarians 1 out of 3 people would confide in someone about their emotional troubles in cases of crisis, that is 1 out of 3 Hungarian respondents have an ‘emotional friend’. (Utasi, 1990)



Inequalities of social class in confidential friendships


The nationwide representative survey conducted in 2000 offered better indicators to explore extra-familiar confidential relationships with emotional ties, that is friendships (Európa 2000, BKE, Házt. Kut. Csop. N=1500). The survey defined friend as a person the respondent “feels very close to and can confide in about important personal matters, and is not a spouse/partner or family-member”.  Data shows that almost 1 out of 2 people (48.9%) claimed to have such ‘intimate’ friend, that is a friend able to provide ‘emotional resources’ in our terminology. (In case we could consider the data gathered by different methods in 1986 relevant, we could register a 10% increase in the number of ‘emotional’ friendships between 1986 and 2000.)


On considering the various classes and strata of society in terms of the unequal life conditions one could conclude that among people living under better conditions the ratio of people having friends is higher. This is especially true when we limit the scope of investigation to friends able to provide emotional assistance, understanding and solidarity.


As a result of the social inequality and discrimination based on biological differences between the sexes the number of friends providing emotional solidarity is somewhat lower among women (47.4%) than men (50.2%). Comparing friendships of the two sexes international surveys had shown that more men (especially middle-aged men) have friends than women (Fischer-Oliker, 1983). A possible explanation is that more men have jobs outside the home than women and their progress in the company hierarchy is also faster than that of women and both factors increase the chances of making friends. In the light of this women obviously have a lower chance of meeting ‘potential’ friends.


However research in Great Britain brought opposite results: there the number of women joining clubs, associations and charities was higher than that of men (Wellman, B., 1992), and so the number of friendships deriving from these communities was higher among women than men. Similar Hungarian surveys show that men’s friendships clearly outnumber that of women even in this respect.


Social inequality based on biological differences could be noticed between different age-groups as well. Among people younger than 29, 3 out of 4 have an extra-familiar confidential relationship (73.0%), while among people over 70 only 1 out of 3 has a friend (31.5%). Despite the large differences between the two extremes of age-groups, comparison with previous surveys shows a significant decrease in the extent of the difference. In the 1986 survey the youngest generation claiming to have an emotional friend outnumbered the oldest age-group 5 times, the 2000 survey showed a halving of this difference with a mere 2.5 multiplier. The present inequality index in Hungary between the two extremes of the age-groups is now identical with that of the more developed western countries in 1986 (Utasi, 1990). It remains to be investigated whether the younger and the older generations would show a similar convergence in other fields of  life-style.


The development of friendships is significantly effected by life-cycle effects which are often accompanied by other kinds of biological inequalities. The friendships generally typical in school-years show a significant drop after marriage and then there is a similar watershed at retirement age (Allan, G., 1979, Utasi, 1990). The result of the latest survey also confirms this trend of following life-cycles. Obviously the life-cycle effect and the age effect usually adds up to form an important determinant in the development of friendships. Some experts have noticed that friendships in old age are often characterized by multiplicity meaning a larger extent of friends who unify several different relationship contents and functions (Weiss-Lowenthal, 1975). A likely explanation is that the inevitably decreasing number of friends in old age makes it necessary for friendships to fulfill several functions at the same time. The fields of activity that were previously divided into several different relationship contents and distributed between several individuals thus show an inevitable concentration by aging. As the actual range of activity narrows with old age the extent of elderly people naming their neighbours as their friends increases.


Following the labor-division status-hierarchy first we investigated the ratio of respondents having confidential friends among the different labor-division groups of the actives. Confirming our hypothesis we found the number of people having confidential friends was the highest among company leaders (72%) and intellectuals (69.2%) and the lowest among the different groups of workers (51.4-52.8%).


Differences also show up according to the participation on the labor market: a larger percentage of full-time employees claimed to have confidential friends (57%) than people employed in part-time jobs (53%). People running their own businesses show a higher index than employees (60%) and this is perfectly understandable considering the fact that they need to have confidential relationships and to be present continuously on the labor market to achieve success.


People active in labor-division have a higher chance of making friends outside the family, while conversely people not present on the labor market show a much lower index: in the case of homemakers and dowagers only 1 out of 3 (30.8-31.3%) have intimate friends, but the situation of young mothers receiving motherhood benefit and staying home to look after their children is even more worrying – only 1 out of 6 claimed to have someone outside the family they could confide in (16.7%). People outside the labor market and with low chances of having confidential relationships are almost exclusively women. This shows that the disadvantages deriving from inequalities based on gender or on the unfavorable labor-division position add up to determine the life conditions of these groups. The unfavorable positions in the two hierarchies get interconnected intensifying the negative effects and so increase the chances of isolation and segregation. The lack of intimate relations might eventually lead to the deterioration of subjective life quality.


As one grows older and especially after retirement social prestige declines in the overwhelming majority of cases. This then results in a decrease of the number of relations and correspondingly confidential friendships. This phenomenon of social devaluation deriving from different inequality dimensions is reflected in the low ratio of friendships among pensioners: disability-pensioners have the lowest hopes of finding friends (34.1%), prepensioners have somewhat better chances (36.4%) and finally pensioners, i.e. employees previously fully integrated into the labor market have the best chance within this group (39.1%). But the differences are relatively small. Being a pensioner and of old age definitely reduces the chances of having friends.


The inequality cross-sections investigated so far had all shown that the higher social status someone has the less disadvantages he will have to put up with in the life condition dimensions characterized by inequalities and the more likely he will find a friend who will understand his problems and provide solidarity. This was also confirmed by the analysis of the cross-section showing cultural differences symbolized with the levels of qualification.


In the category of people not completing their primary school studies only 1 out of 4 has an intimate friend (25.4%). In this category there is an overlapping intensification of the effects of the disadvantages of elderly age and low labor-division status. The index for people completing their primary school studies is markedly better: 1 out of 3 claimed to have a close friend (38.3%). The category of people with completed secondary school studies shows another significant extension: for those graduating from technical school the figure is 52%, while for those graduating from grammar school the figure is 55.8%.


The hypothesis that higher educational levels effectively safeguard from social disadvantages is further supported by the fact that among people with a college or university degree 2 out of 3 does have close friends (64.6%). The inequality between college and university graduation in terms of social capital and progress in the social hierarchy is reflected by the fact that people with a university degree – the ones who are the most likely to reach top positions and thus command power, prestige and wide-ranging network of relationships – have a significantly higher chance of having confidential friends (70.7%) than those with a college degree (61.5%).


We saw earlier that men in general have a higher chance of having confidential relationships than women. But once we shift the focus of investigation to levels of education, we find that at those higher levels where women receive significant skill, expertise and this way command adequate competence and what is even more important become financially independent, they tend to have a better index of having close friends. In the category of people with a degree women have a slightly better index (in the case of college degree, this index is 59% for men and 63% for women). There is a similar tendency in the case of high-school graduates, that is women being slightly better off in terms of having close friends. It seems that well-qualified women need to support their social capital by strengthening their friendships more intensely than men in order to protect their relatively rare and fragile privileged position. The higher extent of friendships among qualified women relative to men could be explained by the need to compensate for the sexual discrimination in society.


Inequalities effect one’s self-respect and consciousness, and so they effect life conditions and the selection of friends. The existence or lack of friends has repercussions on self-evaluation, satisfaction, happiness and eventually on subjective quality of life (Allardt, E., 1998). People who classify themselves as belonging to the lower strata of society in terms of lifestyle, the ‘self-depreciators’ have a 50% lower index of having friends (37.8) than those who evaluate their life conditions more favorably and put themselves higher in the social hierarchy (i.e. upper-middle class) (64.9%).


The existence or lack of friends has a large impact on one’s self-satisfaction, and satisfaction is the single most important factor in determining subjective quality of life, that is individual happiness. Those who have confidential friends, are, to various extents, more satisfied with their life-standards (corr.102**), health( corr..209**), financial conditions (.112**), than those who have no friends.  The causality-chain makes it difficult to identify clearly which is more important: the extent of satisfaction or the lack or existence of friends. Nevertheless it is more likely that the higher index of having friends among people being happier with their condition is the effect and the cause is their favorable condition of life. Those living under better condition are the ones who are ‘better equipped with resources’ and so are in a better exchange position on the market of social capital, so his chances are higher of finding confidential friends and in this way feeling more satisfied, happier.


The more optimistic outlook of those having friends is also a sign of more favorable life-conditions. Among people describing themselves as ‘very happy’ or ‘happy’ the number of those having confidential friends is significantly higher (61.3% and 51.8%)  than among those describing themselves ‘rather unhappy’ or ‘unhappy’ (39.3% and 33.3%) 


Data unambiguously proves the correspondence and interaction between confidential friendship and subjective life quality. We also know that people having friends are more likely to be members of social groups, classes that indicate a favorable position, that is a lower exposure to disadvantages and needs in the context of social inequalities. (Utasi, 2001) So life conditions have a dominant impact on the development of confidential friendships, and as a consequence on the extent of satisfaction and happiness that indicates subjective life quality. The existence of a confidential friend is usually an effect and it is the outcome of the relatively favorable position in the different dimensions of life conditions within inequality structure of society. Friendship ties develop and survive more easily where the traffic of solidarity-resources is two-way, where special interests (also) increase the viability of the contact, where there is a chance of long-term return of confidence capital in terms of solidarity. Friendship is not a relationship primarily based on altruism, it is rather an alliance based on mutual interests which due to the strength of the emotional relationship might occasionally produce expressions of altruism.


The dominant life-condition parameter shaping confidential friendships


The data examined so far had confirmed that different life-conditions correspond to the different chances of having friends. We tried to find out which cross-section of the inequality structure has the highest probability for the emergence of confidential friendships. If we consider confidential friendships accompanying favorable life-conditions to be a form of social capital, then it is also likely that people living under better conditions posses a significantly higher capital in general. As a consequence of the transferability of social capital people with confidential friendship connections can posses more favorable capital benefits and have a higher chance to acquire material and immaterial goods. (Bourdieu, P., 1980)


We looked for the parameters of the life-conditions (by means of logistic regression) that make the development of confidential friendship ties the most likely. In our model we applied variables symbolizing such life-condition extremes that indicated striking inequalities in friendships during the primary analysis. Our aim was to find out which of the following factors was the most determinant in having friends: (1) levels of education(variable name=E41), (2) having a partner in life( =E8), (3) activity on the labor market (0=jobless or retired, 1=active, receiving mother-care benefit, student)(AKTIVIT), (4) age(=KORCS2), (5) gender(=ENEME).


                                   LOGISTIC REGRESSION

                                 ( EUROPA 2000, N=1500, BKE)


----------------------- Variables in the Equation ------------------------


Variable             B      S.E.     Wald    df      Sig       R    Exp(B)


E8(1)            ,4774     ,1254  14,4904     1    ,0001   ,0773    1,6118

AKTIVIT(1)      -,0850     ,1474    ,3326     1    ,5642   ,0000     ,9185

E41                               56,3213     6    ,0000   ,1457

 E41(1)         1,9043     ,3279  33,7187     1    ,0000   ,1233    6,7148

 E41(2)         1,3695     ,2628  27,1630     1    ,0000   ,1098    3,9335

 E41(3)          ,8068     ,2449  10,8525     1    ,0010   ,0651    2,2406

 E41(4)          ,8688     ,2587  11,2774     1    ,0008   ,0667    2,3840

 E41(5)          ,7989     ,2324  11,8127     1    ,0006   ,0686    2,2230

 E41(6)          ,3541     ,2234   2,5139     1    ,1128   ,0157    1,4250

KORCS2                            60,4422     5    ,0000   ,1554

 KORCS2(1)      1,5318     ,2387  41,1894     1    ,0000   ,1370    4,6267

 KORCS2(2)       ,8878     ,2503  12,5853     1    ,0004   ,0712    2,4298

 KORCS2(3)       ,4507     ,2319   3,7764     1    ,0520   ,0292    1,5694

 KORCS2(4)       ,2474     ,2163   1,3078     1    ,2528   ,0000    1,2806

 KORCS2(5)       ,3362     ,2065   2,6494     1    ,1036   ,0176    1,3996

ENEME(1)         ,0148     ,1169    ,0159     1    ,8996   ,0000    1,0149

Constant       -1,4962     ,2742  29,7717     1    ,0000


·         Variables:E21                    1=having a friend , 0=not

                       E8                       1=having  partner in life, 0=not

                       AKTIVIT           1= having activity on the labor market, 0= not

                       E41                     1= university graduate  7=incomplete primary.

                       KORCS2            1= Less than 30 years old, 6= 70 years old or more

                       ENEME              1= man ,  2= women



The model shows that the strong and significant life-condition parameter that makes the development of confidential friendship ties the most likely is the attained level of education (qualification=E41, sign.: 0.00, Exp. B=6.7148). So the extent of the inequalities in the chances of having friends among the considered life-condition dimensions was the highest between the different levels of education. Among the variables in our model age came second on the list of life-condition determinants making it most likely to have extra-familiar confidential friendships (sign.:00. KORCS2 Exp. B= 4.6267).


Examining the average values of the regression variable indicating probability (Pre3), we found that people not completing their primary school studies have the lowest chance of having a friend with 25%, while people with a university degree have the best chance with 71%. The extent of the difference between the two extremes in the education cross-section was almost the same as in the case of the two extremes in the age cross-section where people over the age of 70 have 31% probability while people younger than 29 have a 72% probability of having friends. The largest difference in probabilities is then between elderly people with low educational level and young university graduates.


The analysis clearly showed that the level of education attained is the fundamental factor in determining the probability of having an extra-familiar confidential relationship, that is a friend.



Social integration and strong, confidential relationships


Social integration in traditional societies is sustained almost exclusively by solidarity-networks deriving from family ties, and this is largely true for industrial societies as well. We considered those relationships to be contributing to the social integration which the respondents claimed to be strong ties, people with whom they have a regular and intense relationship. We consider integration sustaining strong relationships the ones which typically develop between children and parents, spouses and confidential friends (Granovetter, M.S. 1973). We supposed that regular resource-transfer is only attainable between those connected by an intensive relationship and so we considered integrative from the above enlisted relationships only the ones where the respondent lived in the same household or made visits at least once a week or were in touch on the phone at least once a week. We think that only ties as intense as that could provide the day to day solidarity giving the individual a sense of security, mutual emotional assistance and eventually social integration. We maintain this claim without denying that in cases of emergency the less intense strong relationships would also be ‘mobilized’, but obviously these looser ties provide less support and consequently they have less effect on the individual’s sense of security, awareness of integration and subjective life quality.


It is a well-known fact that child-parent ties are strong in Hungarian families: the generations living in separate households usually meet on a weekly basis or stay in contact on the phone. 1 out of 6 respondents over the age of 18 lives in the same household as his/her parents or parent (15.4%). Among those living in separate households, but their parents/parent is still alive (38.5%) 3 out 4 meets the parents at least once a week (71.7% = 24.9% of the complete sample), more than half of them (also) calls them on the phone at least once a week (57%= 16% of the complete sample).


Our sample showed that almost 1 out of 2 people has direct or indirect intense contact with their parents (46.6%) which in most cases ensures social integration.


The intensive cooperation and cohesion of the nuclear family is further demonstrated by the other side of the parent-child relationship: the contact of parents with their children. Half of the respondents shares his/her household with their children (foster-children included) (48.7%) and almost half of the respondents (also) have a child living separately (43.2%). 2 out of 3 parents having a child living separately claimed to meet them at least once a week (68.5% = 19.2% of the complete sample) and/or talk to them on the phone (65.9% = 16.9% of the complete sample).


Overall 3 out 4 of the respondents live in the same household as at least one of their children or meet them and/or talk to them on the phone at least once a week (73.8%). (It is of course true that part of the children are still under-aged, and so the transfer of resources is usually one-way, but the social integration awareness is significantly supported by such ties as well.)


The overwhelming majority of the sample is in intensive relationship with their parents/children that is some member of the nuclear family, and so only 1 out of 10 respondents reported no weekly contact with either children or parents (10.6%), while 1 out of 3 of the respondents has strong ties to both parents and children indicated by at least weekly contact frequency (31.0%).


Those with intensive family ties by no means refuse developing strong extra-familiar relationships, that is friendships. In fact the opposite is true. While almost half of the respondents reporting strong ties to either parents or children have friends too (47.7%), and more than half of those with intensive family ties in both directions have confidential, close friends they can rely on in cases of personal problems (53.4%), only 1 out of 3 respondents with no strong family ties reported having confidential friends (39.4%). It is as if intensive, strong relationships would attract each other, they multiply and show cumulative characteristics. The existence of intensive family contact increases the probability of the development of friendship ties.



Relationship deprivation and lack of integration


Of the four kinds of examined strong relationships (parent, child, spouse, friend) 3.7% of the respondents claimed to have none, 1 out of 5 reported only one (15.9%), 1 out of 3 reported two (38.5%), 1 out of 4 reported three (27.9%), and a significant quantity reported to have all four (13.9%).


Among those integrating with only one strong relationship (15.9%) the majority are in contact with their children (8.2%). The number of those integrating only with their spouse (2.7%) or friend (2.6%) or parent (2.3%) is  low as compared with the above mentioned group. However it is a remarkable finding that among those whose social integration is represented with just one strong relationship, the probability that this relationship would be a friendship is very close to the other two relationships which connect the individual to the nuclear family. This fact suggests that in case of lack of nuclear family members in the environment of the respondents friendship becomes the most valuable strong relationship.



Among those with just one kind of intensive strong relationship their labor-market position signifies important differences. For the complete sample 1 out of 6 (15.9%) respondents has just one strong relationship, while in the cross-section of those outside the labor-market their extent is much higher. 29.3% of pensioners, 49.9% of widowers, 22% of people living on social benefits and 22% of those taking part in rehabilitation programs have only one intensive relationship, that is someone they can rely on permanently.



Groups with the highest probability to be found among people with just one intensive strong relationship (15.9%)


People living on dower: 49.9%

Pensioners: 29.3%

People living on social aid: 22.0%

People on vocational rehabilitation: 22.0%


Those who had none of the four examined intensive strong relationships have low chance of social integration through other channels (3.7%). They irreversibly lose access to resources provided by the traditional solidarity-network and unless social institutions or civil groups/organizations can effectively assist their integration they become ‘outcasts’ on the peripheries of society and become ‘deprived’ in terms of relationships. We tried to find out whether among the classes with different life-conditions which are the ones to be found with highest probability in this situation of complete contact deprivation and lack of social integration. 



Groups with the highest probability to be found among people with no intensive strong relationship (3.5%)


People over 60: 9.4

Without completed primary school studies: 7.2%

People living on dower: 28.0%

Living on part-time jobs: 20.0%

Pensioners: 6.9%

People living on social aid: 5.6%


Age and the changes in life-cycle induce profound changes in the family-structure and in the quantity of people with strong ties, and so the probabilities of entering the group of those deprived of social relationships are also modified. In the age-group under 39 the extent of people without strong ties to spouse, parents, children or friends – that is without hopes of receiving solidarity – is negligible (0.4%). In the age-group of 40-59 the extent of people without strong ties is still very low (1.8%). However over 60 the index sharply rises: 1 out of 10 people in this group has no intensive relationship at all (9.4%).


Considering the educational hierarchy we see that in the cross-section of the least educated the extent of those without strong integrative relationship is high (7.2%). Above this level relationship deprivation is sharply reduced (vocational training: 2.0%, high school graduation: 1.5%, university degree: 2.2%) Completion of primary school is a border-line in terms of possessing strong, socially integrating relationships, above this line there is no significant difference between the categories. Relationship deprivation in the category of low-educated is probably connected to the fact that people belonging to this class are mostly elderly, as the changes in educational system almost rule out people under 55 not to have completed their primary school studies and so factors like losing relatives or the migration of children become highly relevant.


Another life-condition dimension that has a high tendency to implicate lack of relationships is unfavorable position on the labor-market. Exceedingly high numbers of people without intensive strong relationships belong to the category of those living on part-time jobs (and obviously predominantly unskilled) (20%) and also to elderly people living on dower (28%) but in general all the categories representing people inactive on the labor-market have an index higher than average (pensioners: 6.9%, people in benefit: 5.6%)



Social integration with four kinds of relationships (parent, child, spouse, friend)


In the group of respondents without intensive strong relationship the rate of those considering themselves happy – ‘very happy’ or ‘rather happy’ – was only half of the rate in the group of those with intensive strong relationships. It comes as no surprise that the index of those considering themselves ‘very unhappy’ was several times higher among those without intensive strong relationships than among those who have such relationships.


It is easy to see which life condition factor is the most dominant in determining whether a person will have several intensive ‘strong’ relationships and extensive contact network as means of integrating into community: regression-analysis had also revealed that this factor is age. The younger a person the more likely to have intensive relationships in all four fields considered. Next on the list was educational level the one life condition dimension that synthesizes the effects of all the other dimensions of social inequalities.



Improvement in the probabilities of integration through the virtual ties of associations, organizations and religion


Sometimes it happens that people without the examined family or friendship ties consider themselves happy, satisfied, socially integrated. One typical example is people without strong relationship ties but with firm religious faith. And it does not in any way subtract from their well-being that transcendent and virtual relationship can provide only emotional resources. Similar emotions can arise in those who, though without strong relationships, belong to some sort of civil community, association, club. Such membership can also make people feel that they are not without ties, that they can integrate into society. Recently there is a new source of this emotional equilibrium though perhaps of more transient nature and that is Internet-friendship. However we have no statistically relevant information on people with such virtual ties.


Accepting religious faith and membership in some form of association further integrative relationships, we modified the index that was previously based on four different kinds of strong relationships by adding these two extra ‘ties’. In this new index the number of those considered deprived was halved: a mere 1.5% of the sample remained without real or virtual ties as opposed to the previously indicated 3.7%.


Social integration with six types of relationship (parent, child, spouse, friend, religion, association) 


The extent of those with just one tie had also dropped by half but remained significant (7.5%). The extent of those integrating exclusively through either religious faith (1.9%) or friendship (0.9%) or membership in some association  (0.2%) complete with those not being able to report any ties at all, still only amounts to 4.5%. Thus we can conclude that in Hungary only 1 out of 20 people live their lives without intensive family ties.


Our study has validated the thesis that family is the dominant and determinant integrative force in our society. It was also established that extra-familiar intensive strong ties provide integrative channels for relatively few people.

The cumulative nature of integrative relationships was also shown by the fact that in the group of people with strong family ties the probability of having intensive strong relationships is also higher. Relationships seem to follow the pattern established by prestige, namely: the more you have the higher your chances are to further expand them (Mills, C.W., 1951). Social capital accumulating through intensive strong relationships follows the pattern of other types of capital: it accumulates on the top of social ladder indicating the most favorable life conditions and at the other end of the hierarchy general deprivation is usually complemented by the lack of integrative intensive strong relationships.




Distribution of respondents having just on of the six types of intensive strong relationships (7.5%)


The reported relationship:


Religious faith: 1.9%

Confidential friend: 0.9%

Membership: 0.2%

Spouse or parent or child: 4.5%

Total: 7.5%





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[1] The survey showed that in Austria and West-Germany 1 out of 4 or 1 out of 5 people did not have friends (24.9% and 21.5%), the same figure for Italy and England was 1 out of 10 (14.7% and 13.7%), in Australia and the U.S. it was even lower: 5-6%.