INTIMACY BETWEEN FRIENDS: AGE AND GENDER SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
Krahn, Ellen Elaine
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The present study was an exploration of intimacy between same-gender friends. The study was designed to extend the existing literature in several important ways. Specifically, careful attention was given to the definition of an intimate or close friend, both self-report and observed behaviour were assessed, and intimacy was conceptualized as consisting of more than self-disclosure. In addition, the relationship between intimacy and gossip was explored, as well as similarities and differences in intimacy as a function of age and gender. Two studies were done. In the first study, subjects reported the current level of intimacy in their closest same-gender friendship using the Miller Social Intimacy Scale (MSIS) (1982). In the second study, same-gender friends were selected on the basis of their scores on the MSIS and were asked to participate in two unstructured laboratory conversations. One conversation was an intimate or personal conversation and the other was a non-intimate or casual conversation. The conversations were audio recorded and the data were coded with a system designed to assess social processes common in everyday speech (e.g., transfer of information, gossip, self-disclosure). Three age groups of friends were studied (18-21, 26-36, 40-50). It was expected that females would report higher levels of intimacy in their same-gender friendships than males. Further, it was expected that conversations between female friends would consist of more self-disclosure and affective social processes than conversations of male friends who, in turn, would use more transfer of information than female friends. The results indicated that females did report higher levels of intimacy in their same-gender friendships than males. There were no differences as a function of age. In conversation, women and men of all three age groups were similar in their use of social processes. However, there were effects for topic. That is, the intimate conversations consisted of greater use of high self-disclosure and gossip than the non-intimate conversations which, in turn, consisted of more transfer of information and low self disclosure. The relationship between talking about others (gossip) and intimacy was discussed and the results were interpreted in reference to the distributions of scores on the MSIS.