Tend and Befriend


Tend and befriend is a concept that describes the behavioral response of individuals, primarily women, to stress. According to psychologists, when faced with threats, humans and animals have two ways of dealing with stress: fight or flight. However, researchers discovered that women may have a different stress response, one that involves tending and befriending. This response includes nurturing behavior towards children, emotional support, and spending time with friends and family.

The Science behind Tend and Befriend

The fight or flight response is an evolutionary adaptation that humans and animals have developed to protect themselves from threats. When faced with danger, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, preparing the individual to fight or flee from danger. However, not all threats can be resolved through aggression or escape.

Researchers discovered that women may have a different response to stress. When exposed to stressful situations, their bodies release a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes social behavior, empathy, and bonding. This hormone is believed to be responsible for the tend and befriend response, a coping mechanism that involves nurturing and protecting offspring, seeking social support, and forming strong relationships.

Why Women Tend and Befriend

The tend and befriend response is believed to have evolved as an adaptive trait that helps women protect their offspring and ensure their survival. Women are biologically wired to care for their young, and during times of stress, this instinct is heightened. The nurturing behavior towards children ensures their safety and well-being, while seeking social support and bonding with others creates a support system that can provide emotional aid and practical assistance.

Furthermore, studies have shown that women have a larger network of social connections than men, and these connections play a crucial role in their overall well-being. Women are more likely to seek and provide emotional support to others, creating a sense of community and mutual benefit.

The Benefits of Tend and Befriend

The tend and befriend response has numerous benefits, both for the individual and the community. For women, nurturing behavior towards offspring promotes the development of healthy, well-adjusted children. Seeking social support and forming strong relationships can help alleviate stress, promote positive emotions, and reduce the risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

In addition, the tend and befriend response can have positive effects on the community. Women with strong social connections are more likely to engage in pro-social behavior, such as volunteering, donating to charity, and participating in community events. These actions can benefit the wider community and promote social cohesion.

Tend and Befriend in the Workplace

The concept of tend and befriend has important implications for the workplace. In many work environments, stress is a common occurrence, and individuals may be exposed to high-pressure situations that trigger the fight or flight response. However, for women, the tend and befriend response may be a more effective way of coping with stress.

Providing support and empathy to colleagues can help create a positive work environment, foster stronger relationships between colleagues, and promote teamwork. Women may also be more likely to seek and provide emotional support in the workplace, creating a sense of community and belonging.

The Downside of Tend and Befriend

While the tend and befriend response can be beneficial, it also has its limitations. Women may be more prone to burnout, as they may take on too much responsibility in the workplace and at home. This can lead to exhaustion, stress, and physical and mental health problems.

In addition, the emphasis on social connections and giving emotional support can sometimes lead to a neglect of personal needs. Women may feel pressure to prioritize the needs of others over their own, leading to self-neglect and a lack of self-care.


In conclusion, the tend and befriend response is a coping mechanism that describes the nurturing and social behavior of women in response to stress. While this response has numerous benefits, it also has limitations and can lead to burnout and neglect of personal needs. Understanding this response can help individuals and organizations create a supportive environment that promotes well-being and positive social connections.


What is Tend and Befriend?

Tend and Befriend is a theory that highlights the social behaviour of women during times of stress or danger. It suggests that women tend to respond to stress by nurturing others (tending) and seeking social support (befriending) rather than relying on the traditional “flight or fight” response.

How does Tend and Befriend work?

The Tend and Befriend response is believed to be linked to the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”. Oxytocin helps to reduce stress levels by promoting feelings of bonding and attachment between individuals. The act of tending and befriending can help to lower stress levels and provide a sense of safety and security.

Is Tend and Befriend exclusive to women?

While the Tend and Befriend theory initially focused on women, research has suggested that it may also apply to men. However, the response may be less pronounced in men due to societal expectations of masculinity and the traditional “fight or flight” response. Additionally, the factors that trigger the Tend and Befriend response may differ between men and women.


1. Taylor, S. E. (2006). Tend and befriend: Biobehavioral bases of affiliation under stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(6), 273-277. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00451.x

2. Kokko, K., Katila, S., Sääksvuori, L., & Pulkkinen, L. (2017). The role of leisure activities in the tend-and-befriend response amongst Finnish adolescents. Leisure Studies, 36(2), 214-225. doi: 10.1080/02614367.2016.1186363

3. Brown, S. L., Surerus, C., Guarino, J., Hinderliter, A. C., Hood, S. B., & Stetler, C. A. (2019). Gender differences in the tend-and-befriend response to acute stress: A comparison of cardiovascular and psychological responses. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 26(2), 144-152. doi: 10.1007/s12529-018-9758-9