Friends and Strangers: The Social Experience of Living in Urban and Non‐urban Settings

Karen A. Franck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Two types of urban social experience are distinguished: contacts with friends and contacts with strangers. Traditional theories of urban life have concentrated on contacts with strangers, which for the most part are impersonal. This has led to the popular view that urban residents are socially isolated even though much of the available evidence on friendship contradicts this. This paper reports a study of newcomers who moved either to New York City or to a town of 31,000. The findings indicate that once the newcomers had lived in the new environment seven or eight months, there were no differences between the two groups with respect to number of friends or frequency of contact with friends. However, the urban group did experience greater difficulty in forming friendships than the non‐urban group. It is suggested that the greater feelings of fear and distrust reported by the urban newcomers were the reason for this difficulty. Thus, it is possible that community size affects friendship in a way that has not previously been explored: fear, distrust, and other aspects of encounters between strangers in a city may make the transition from stranger to friend more difficult than in a smaller community. 1980 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-71
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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