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Intimate interactions in peer relationship of young adults Zhu, Ma


Friendship with peers is an important part of young adults’ lives. Literature has addressed the significance of intimacy in peer relationship, and has examined its relations with other aspects of young adults’ development and psychological well-being. But there is a lack of knowledge about how young adults express, act on, and experience intimacy in their day-to-day interactions with their friends. This study was a secondary analysis of data from a larger study using the action-project method to investigate transition-to-adulthood joint projects that young adults engage in with their peers. Two female-female dyads, two male-male dyads, and two female-male dyads (aged 19-27 years) were selected for in-depth qualitative analysis with their dyadic conversations and their reports of their internal processes during the conversations. The research question explored in this study was: What characterizes the intimate interactions in the conversations that young adults have with their friends? Content analysis using the Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF) (Coan & Gottman, 2007) identified components of intimate interaction based on Prager’s theory of intimacy (Prager, 1995). The manifestation of intimacy within each dyad and the synthesis of all six cases are presented. The main characteristics revealed by the young adult peers’ intimate interactions include: (a) expression of attention and interest using both nonverbal behaviour and verbal cues; (b) self-disclosures either prioritizing recent life events or focusing on emotional events, and the tendency to share challenging experiences; (c) responses containing validation, comfort, understanding, and also information or suggestions; (d) positive internal experiences characterized by mutual support and understanding; and (e) reports of the emotional and instrumental value of the interactions. Findings are discussed in the context of the literature. Limitations of this study, as well as its implications for future research and counselling practice, are also discussed.

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