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Contextual Influences on Gender Segregation in Emerging Adulthood


To better understand contextual influences on gender segregation in emerging adulthood, we examined the extent to which college students (N = 285; 178 females, 107 males) from the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. nominated same-gender peers when listing their close friends, preferred workmates for projects in English and math classes, and preferred partners for “hanging out.” We used an established, self-report measure to examine the relation between preferences to affiliate with same-gender peers and students’ gender-typed activity involvement (i.e., involvement in activities stereotypically associated with one’s own gender). The majority of close friends nominated by both women and men were same-gender peers, but men nominated relatively more same-gender friends than did women. Workmate nominations for class projects followed gender stereotypes. Women were least likely to nominate same-gender workmates for a math project compared to an English project or to “hang out.” Men were least likely to nominate same-gender workmates for a project in English compared to a math project or to “hang out.” For both women and men, nominating more same-gender friends and workmates was associated with less involvement in activities stereotypically associated with the other gender. The stability of emerging adults’ preferences for same-gender peers across contexts is discussed.

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Author Note

The authors would like to thank Emily Keener, Zac Corathers, Meggie Swisher, Brittany Turley, and Amber Dodson for their assistance with this project.

This manuscript is based on the first author’s Master’s thesis project. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the May 2011 Association for Psychological Science, Washington, D.C.

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Correspondence to Lisa DiDonato or JoNell Strough.

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DiDonato, L., Strough, J. Contextual Influences on Gender Segregation in Emerging Adulthood. Sex Roles 69, 632–643 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-013-0312-1

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  • Gender segregation
  • Activities
  • Context
  • Emerging adults
  • Friendships
  • Peer preferences
  • College students
  • School
  • Home
  • Gender differences