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"Gender differences in friendship satisfaction"


     In looking at the relationship between gender and friendships, the literature has claimed that female same sex friendships are more satisfying than male same sex friendships, and that cross sex friendships are more satisfying for males than for females because of their high levels of intimacy, self-disclosure, and trust.  It seems that if researchers focus on qualities such as intimacy, self-disclosure, and trust as the criteria for a satisfying friendship, then it would clearly show that females are more capable of supplying this because these qualities are consistent with their gender role.  Females are socialized at an early age to focus on relationships, intimacy, and discussion, while males were socialized to focus on activity and very little self-disclosure.  The current study investigated friendship satisfaction in relation to gender role expectations and how the different expectations placed on men and women forces them to have "different" friendships.
     Due to the fact that males and female have different needs in their friendships and achieve satisfaction differently, It was hypothesized that there would be no gender differences in satisfaction of same sex and cross sex friendships.  However, it was hypothesized that the friendships would serve different functions.  For instance, males would go to their same sex friends to engage in sports and activities, and would go to their cross sex friendships for intimacy and self-disclosure.  For females, they would look to their same sex friendships for intimacy and self-disclosure, while going to their cross sex friends for activity and less intimate purposes.  These differences in functions do not mean that there are differences in satisfaction.
     The participants in the study consisted of 40 students (20 male and 20 female) from two New England, liberal arts, catholic colleges.  The ages ranged from 18-21.  The majority of the participants were given class credit for their participation, while the others were volunteers.  The participants were studied using four measures.  The first was the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1978); the second was the McGill Friendship Questionnaire - Response Affections (MFQ-RA); the third was the McGill Friendship Questionnaire - Friendship Function (MFQ-FF) (Mendelson & Aboud, 1999) the last measure used was a self-created questionnaire, which was an expansion of one created by Leonard (1994).  The MFQ-RA and the MFQ-FF were filled out twice by the participants, once regarding a same sex friend, and once regarding a cross sex friend.
     Repeated measures analysis of variances, independent samples t-tests, and correlations revealed significant findings in several areas.  The results showed that there were no gender differences in satisfaction of both same sex and cross sex friendships.  In other words, contrary to past literature, both males and females reported satisfaction in their same sex and cross sex friendships.  However, these results showed that both males and females found their same sex friendships to be more satisfying and serve more functions than their cross sex friendships.  Also, results revealed that there were significant relationships found between gender roles and perceptions of friendships as being activity based or discussion based.
    Again, these results reveal that although there are differences in friendships, both males and females are overall satisfied with these friendships.  Future implications of this study concern applying what is found about gender differences to trying to improve communication and overall quality of friendships and other relationships.

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