Gender & Friendship

Two "levels of analysis" of friendship



Children’s friendships

Infancy (0-2)

Toddlers & Preschoolers (2-5)

Preferred playmates

Parallel play

Gender issues:

Establish gender identity.

Learn the rules of "doing gender." Called gender conformity.

Sex-typed toys/games & same-sex playmates.

School-aged children (5-11)

Same-sex friendships

Gender issues:

Networks vs. dyads

Distinctions among friends.

Social rules of play groups.

At age 10, intimacy increases for girls.

Adolescence (11-18)

Gender issues:

Intimacy, same-sex & cross-sex friendships

Satisfaction with friendship

Concerns with gender conformity

Sometimes: friends become romantic partners

Adults’ Friendships

Young adults (18-35)

Lots of information, especially on college students.

Developmental trends

Best friends =same sex friends.

Romantic relationships deepen, achieve permanence.

Gender conformity – declines

Intimacy, satisfaction, & women’s vs. men’s friendships.


Day-to-day life between friends: the Rochester Interaction Record

Gender & meaningfulness – women are still more satisfied.


Dispositional explanations:

1. Agentic vs. communal personality traits

2. Values/definitions of intimacy

Elkins & Peterson (1993) – gender and expectations of friends


3. Biases in research & in men’s reports?

Structural explanations:

1. Standards of masculinity

2. Norms for self disclosure & norms for masculinity

Norm #1: Personal disclosures should be confined to intimate relationship partners.

Norm #2: Moderate levels of disclosure are best for new acquaintances.

Norm #3: The discloser's sex affects perceptions of appropriateness.

3. Norms for affectionate touch

4. Homophobia:

5. Competition: a barrier?

Nature of Male & Female Friendships

Different friendship norms affect friendship


1. "Just talking" vs. "sharing activities"

2. Basic values vs. interests

3. What does it take to be called a "friend?"

4. Reciprocity – give & take.


1. Ideal friend

2. Intimacy & support predict satisfaction.

3. Equal status preferred

Self-Disclosure: Pathway to intimacy for women and men.

Definition: verbal sharing of private, personal information about the self.

Gender-related patterns in self-disclosure:

Women disclose more frequently & more intimately.


A. Friend vs. acquaintance vs. new romantic partner

B. Situation: agentic vs. communal

C. Personality: Agentic vs. communal

D. Sex of disclosure recipient

Gender-related patterns in listening and attending:


**Moderators: Same-sex vs. other-sex interaction & partners' relationship.

Race & ethnicity:

Does it make a difference?


Gender differences in friendship intimacy vary by culture.

Post-college adulthood

Effects of work, marriage, & parenthood

Similarities & differences depending upon gender

Late Adulthood

Friendships are again cultivated.

Retirement & friendship, women & men

Cross-Sex friendships

Can men & women be friends?

Comparisons with same-sex friendships

Agency/communion moderates


1. Friendship or romantic love?

2. Sexual attraction?

3. Unequal status?

4. Audience challenge

5. Opportunity challenge