Two theoretical perspectives are introduced as frameworks for organizing these essays on gender and friendship. The two cultures perspective (Maccoby, 1998) logically begins with the robust phenomenon of gender segregation from the preschool years through middle childhood and proposes that girls' and boys' groups develop different peer cultures and socialize one another in different ways. The second approach extends the two cultures theory by proposing that distinctive features of girls' and boys' peer relationships confer particular developmental advantages but also vulnerabilities for each group (Rose & Rudolph, 2006). This introduction outlines how the results of the six empirical studies in this special issue might inform the two cultures and emotional trade-offs perspectives.
The present study examines the ethnic heterogeneity of children's social networks and cross-ethnic friendships as a function of gender, age, and time in an ethnically diverse school. Subjects were 350 children in first through sixth grades. Mutual peer nominations of 350 children yielded 956 reciprocal dyads and 88 social network groups. Girls had larger and more ethnically diverse social networks than boys. Girls were more likely to belong to a social network group and less likely than boys to be isolates as the school year progressed. At roughly fifth and sixth grade, girls had more reciprocal friends than boys, and at roughly third and fourth grade, girls were more likely than boys to have cross-ethnic friends. With regard to friendship stability, same-ethnic/same-gender (girl) dyads were most stable and cross-ethnic/mixed-gender (boy-girl) dyads were least stable.
This study compared same- and cross-gender friendship conceptions and explored the cross-gender friendship experiences of 174 students in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12. Preliminary information about the nature and extent of cross-gender friendship experiences is presented. Variability in responses to questions about beliefs and expectations in both same- and cross-gender friendships was examined to investigate three theoretically derived hypotheses: (1) cross-gender and same-gender friendships are different types of personal relationships, (2) distinctions between same- and cross-gender conceptions vary across age, and (3) conceptions vary as a function of the friendships of girls versus the friendships of boys. The strongest support was obtained for the first hypothesis, although some support was obtained for the notion that friendships involving girls are viewed to differ stereotypically from friendships with boys. Finally, potential challenges and benefits that emerge in conceptions of cross-gender friendship are discussed.
This study examined the characteristics of gossip among fourth-grade girls and their close friends. Sixty friendship dyads were videotaped as they engaged in conversation, and their gossip was coded. Analyses revealed gossip to be a dominant feature of their interaction and that it was primarily neutral in valence. Sociometrically popular girls and their friends were observed to gossip more about peers, and their gossip was more evaluative than that between rejected girls and their friends. Gossip frequency and valence related to observed friendship closeness and friendship quality. Race differences in the characteristics of gossip were also explored. The study results are important in our efforts to develop a fuller understanding of the important interpersonal process of gossip and the functions that it serves in the context of close friendships.
This study examined the effects of gender and context on relations between children's friendship features (intimacy, exclusivity, and aggression) and socially exclusive gestures and remarks. One hundred forty dyads of mutually nominated close friends (N = 280, ages 10, 12, and 14) participated in a laboratory study of social exclusion toward a newcomer and then rated features of their friendship. As compared to boys, in the presence of the provoking peer, girls' aggressive friendship features were less strongly related to exclusive verbalizations but more strongly related to observed exclusive gestures. In the absence of the provocateur, girls' aggressive friendship features were more strongly related to exclusive remarks than were boys' friendship features. These findings suggest that the relation between friendship features and social exclusion may be influenced more by context for girls and that girl friends may dissemble more when excluding a newcomer, perhaps in keeping with their interpersonal needs for communion and harmony.
This study was conducted to assess whether friendship quality and gender moderate the association between peer victimization and internalizing distress. Third-,fourth-, and fifth-grade children (N = 670; 315 girls, 355 boys) completed self-report measures of friendship quality, relational and overt physical victimization, anxiety, and depression. Results indicated that several aspects of positive friendship quality, including help and security, serve as effective buffers against both relational and overt victimization. These results were found for girls only and for both anxiety and depression. Results highlight the importance of positive friendship features as protective factors in the link between victimization and internalizing distress.
Although research has identified gender differences in the interpersonal antecedents of depressive symptoms in youth, little is known about gender differences in the interpersonal consequences of depression. The goal of the present research was to examine gender differences in the influence of early-onset depressive symptoms on adolescent friendships and self-perceived peer acceptance. Third-graders (N = 382) participated in a multiwave longitudinal study through the sixth grade. Parents reported on youths' depressive symptoms. Youths reported on the quality of their perceived best friendship and their perceptions of peer acceptance. Reciprocal nominations of friendship were assessed through reports by youths and their classmates. Consistent with expectations, depressive symptoms contributed to subsequent declines in the number of reciprocal friendships and to poorer perceived friendship quality in girls but not in boys. Depressive symptoms predicted declines in subsequent perceived peer acceptance in both girls and boys. These findings contribute to theories regarding gender differences in relationships and gender-linked interpersonal processes in depression.
Children spend considerable time in gender-segregated friendship groups in which they develop gender-typed interpersonal styles that have implications for their adjustment and ability to interact with the other sex. However, most of what we know about gender and friendships comes from studies that included girls and boys but were designed to address other questions. Accordingly, studies such as those in this special issue that were specifically designed to examine the role of gender are especially valuable for learning about girls' and boys' friendships. These essays contribute to our understanding of girls' and boys' friendships in terms of structure (e.g., how many friends girls and boys have), content (e.g., how friends interact), and adjustment correlates. These contributions are discussed and suggestions for future research are provided. Suggestions include that future studies (a) work to increase our theoretical understanding of why gender differences in friendship occur, including by taking social cognition into greater account; (b) examine broad age ranges and follow youths over time; and (c) challenge findings about girls' and boys' friendships that are supported by relatively few studies.
Studies of friendship, sex, and gender come in many forms and address a set of questions that are as broad as the study of friendship itself. The papers in this special issue reveal gender differences in the features, processes, and outcomes related to friendship. This commentary aims to place these papers within the broader literature on peer relations. We show that each of these studies is just a beginning, however, as basic points about the origins and meanings of sex and gender effects deserve further focus and scrutiny. Suggestions are offered to promote the further development of research on sex, gender, and relationships with peers.
This conclusion to this special issue on gender and friendships considers how these studies confirm, challenge, and extend the two cultures (Maccoby, 1998) and emotional trade-offs (Rose & Rudolph, 2006) perspectives. An intriguing but rarely tested feature of the two cultures framework is that gender segregation and the different peer cultures that result might lead to challenges when girls and boys come together in romantic relationships in adolescence and adulthood. This conclusion highlights the possible implications of gender differences in friendships in middle childhood for emerging romantic relationships in adolescence.