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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Charting the territory of cross-gender friendship : conceptions of friendship and the selection of friends McDougall, Patricia Anne


To date, cross-gender friendships in childhood and adolescence have been virtually ignored in the peer relationships literature. The purpose of the present investigation was to chart the territory of cross-gender friendship by examining the domains of friendship conceptions and the selection of friends. Accordingly, 176 students (91 girls, 85 boys) in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12 participated in individual sessions and were asked to describe their beliefs about, and expectations for, both same- and cross-gender friendship. In addition, students participated in a hypothetical decision-making task using a series of information boards on which they were asked to search for, and select, a same- and cross-gender friend. Findings revealed that beliefs and expectations for both same- and cross-gender friendships were observed to follow a common developmental sequence with little evidence that cross-gender friendships lag behind. Although the pattern of gender differences in conceptions of cross-gender friendship was consistent with previous research, the results of this study suggest that for several features of friendship, participants made distinctions on the basis of what is expected in friendships involving girls versus boys. The differential emphasis placed on various expectations in friendship provides support for the notion that same- and cross-gender friendships may represent different types of personal relationships. As compared to conceptions of friendship, observations in the friendship selection task revealed that students engaged in similar predecisional searching regardless of the gender of the target friend. Findings suggest that the process of same- and crossgender friendship selection was somewhat different at different grade levels but did not vary markedly for boys and girls. Indeed, boys and girls at all ages were observed to select same- and cross-gender friends who were highly similar to themselves. The present discussion concludes with a description of the cross-gender friendship experiences of children and adolescents in this sample including consideration of the potential challenges and benefits associated with having a friend of the other gender.

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