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Gender Rules: Same- and Cross-Gender Friendships Norms

Abstract

We examined the relationships between gender and attitudes towards same- and cross-gender friendship norms for a sample of 269 West Coast, U.S., college students. Participants evaluated violations of friendship norms described in vignettes in which the friend’s gender was experimentally manipulated. Women differentiated more between types of violations in their evaluations than did men. There also were several significant gender differences in approval of norm violations. As expected, women tended to have relatively high expectations of their friendships in situations involving trust and intimacy, likely resulting from the high value they placed on affiliation and emotional closeness. Women were more disapproving than men of a friend who canceled plans or failed to come to their defense publicly. Men and women judged a woman who betrayed a secret more harshly than a man. Generally, expectations for cross-gender, versus same-gender, friends were more similar than different; there were no significant cross-gender interactions, with one exception. Men were particularly less approving of a male, as compared to a female, friend who kissed them in a greeting. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of respondents (81.6%) reported that men and women can be friends. A minority of women were cautious in their responses, with women (18.5%) more apt to reply “maybe,” than men (9.9%). Overall, these findings provided evidence that gender, rather than cross-gender, norms primarily influenced friendship evaluations, and demonstrated that even a subtle manipulation of gender can trigger gender stereotypes. They suggested, too, that women may hold their friends to stricter “rules” than men.

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Correspondence to Diane Felmlee.

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Felmlee, D., Sweet, E. & Sinclair, H.C. Gender Rules: Same- and Cross-Gender Friendships Norms. Sex Roles 66, 518–529 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0109-z

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Keywords

  • Friendship
  • Gender differences
  • Cross-gender friendship
  • Norms
  • Friendship expectations