I was just interviewed about my book, Buddy System: Understanding male friendships, for a magazine going to members of a college fraternity. Two questions came up relating to fraternities:
1. Why are men's friendships so important in the late teens and early 20s?
By the late teens and early 20s, men are separating from their families and establishing an independent identity. Friends (male and female) play an important role in helping that separation process and identity formation. Men have often not "partnered" with any one yet and have time on their hands to be with men friends. When they marry, start a family, and a career, they often do not have as much time for friends. It is not until later in life, when a career is established, their children are separating from them, and the marital relationship is solidified that men seek out their friends again. These are also the men who go back to their college fraternity websites and seek reconnection with their old college mates.
2. What role do fraternities play in these friendships?
Fraternities provide a socially acceptable way for men to live together, socialize, study, and do community service together. They form the foundation for a 4 year commitment to men-to-men relationships that are masculine and socially acceptable. They also help men transition from the family to the university-setting by providing another "family." Many men form lifelong male friendships during their fraternity years.
A few men in my book talked about joining fraternities, or men's clubs, as adults. Clearly, the need for organized socializing between men continues into adulthood.