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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Meaning and process in early adolescent friendship conversations Haber, Carla Joanne


This qualitative study utilized the action-project theory and method to investigate the close, long-term friendships (two to ten years in duration) of female, early adolescent dyads. Ten early adolescent girls between the ages of 11 and 13 were studied. The purpose of this study was twofold; first, to determine the characteristics of best friendship projects and how they manifested within early adolescent friendship conversations and; second, to investigate the nature of self-representations (descriptions of the self) made by the participants. The processes (cognitive, affective, and behavioural) and meaning (goals) of friendship jointly expressed within the conversations were identified. As well, self-representations were analyzed from the perspective of whether they functioned to advance friendship projects. In addition to the friendship conversations, collages explicating the girls’ meanings and processes around their close friendships were also explored through an individual interview with each participant. The participants engaged in five friendship projects within their friendship conversations. First, an overriding project to preserve and maintain the friendship was demonstrated. Other sub-projects demonstrated within the conversations were the desire to have fun, to provide support to each other, and to connect with each other. Simultaneously, while jointly enacting other friendship projects, the participants also demonstrated through action, the project of exploring and discovering aspects of their identities. Multiple functional steps (the means) to achieve these projects were utilized. Gossip, fictional and factual storytelling, teasing, joking, problem solving, asking for advice, and displaying physical affection are examples of these means. Self-representations from the conversations were not always consistent with those revealed during self-confrontation interviews, at times in the service of achieving friendship goals. Self-representations between the collage interviews and the friendship conversations were very consistent, suggesting the complementary nature of the data sources. Meanings and processes gleaned from the friendship conversations were also very consistent with those found within the friendship collages. Implications of these findings for parents, educators, and counsellors are discussed.

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