, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 481-494

Conceptions of Cross-Sex Friendships and Romantic Relationships in Early Adolescence

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Adolescents' conceptions of cross-sex friendships and romantic relationships were explored in a sample of 1755 adolescent boys and girls ranging in age from 9 to 14 years. These adolescents uniquely characterized romantic relationships in terms of passion and commitment whereas cross-sex friendships were largely characterized by affiliation. Even the youngest of the adolescents made these distinctions. Nonetheless, both age and experience were associated with changes in the use of descriptors. References to intimacy increased in both types of relationships, and references to passion and affiliation decreased. These age- and experience-related differences occurred independently of each other. The results are consistent with the view that even young adolescents who are lacking extensive experiences with cross-sex and romantic relationships would have an awareness of the core features of romantic relationships. Moreover their conceptions were consistent with adults' views of love and friendship suggesting a shared cultural base for conceptions of cross-sex friendship and romantic relationships.