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Treating Men in Search of Intimacy & Connection
Male intimacy continuing education Addiction Counselor CEU

Section 20
Closeness and Intimacy Needs Related to Friendships:
Gender Differences

Question 20 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

Closeness is an integral aspect of friendships, and males and females differ in their closeness experiences within these relationships. However, identity development and friendship type (e.g., same-sex versus cross-Closeness Treating Men in Search of Intimacy counselor CEU coursesex friendships) may moderate these gender differences. In an attempt to clarify the relationships among gender, identity, and friendship closeness, a study examined gender and identity associations with reported emotional closeness in emerging adults' same- and cross-sex friendships. Responses from 181 college undergraduates (89 males and 92 females) indicated similar levels of emotional closeness reported for same- and cross-sex friendships. Results also indicated overall identity commitment and friendship identity commitment associations with same-sex friendship closeness. Examination of closeness reports for cross-sex friends revealed a significant association with overall identity commitment for emerging adult males. A significant association was not indicated for emerging adult females. The associations between identity and emotional closeness in same-sex friendships and male cross-sex friendships support previous studies that report differences in the role of these relationships for emerging adult males and females. Findings are discussed in terms of understanding the gender and identity differences in emerging adults' reports of friendship closeness.

Meeting closeness and intimacy needs (e.g., mutual empathy, love, and security) within relationships outside the family environment is an integral aspect of development (Sullivan, 1953), and these needs are commonly met through the formation of friendships. Research on friendship closeness during emerging adulthood (often referred to as late adolescence and/or young adulthood) indicates that closeness becomes an increasingly important aspect of relationships (Arnett, 2000; Montgomery, 2005), and emerging adults meet their closeness needs through interactions with same- and cross-sex friends. Although both of these relationships are important to emerging adults, they report knowing their same-sex friend longer, spending more time with that friend, and being more committed to that friend (Johnson, 2004). Further, same-sex friendships are formed earlier than cross-sex friendships (Sharabany, Gershoni, & Huffman, 1981), provide for more relaxed interactions (Sullivan, 1953), and are "perceived as more significant" than cross-sex friendships (Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1993, p. 102).

In addition to the friendship differences, gender differences in same-and cross-sex friendship emotional closeness are also apparent (Furman & Buhrmester, 1985; Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1993). Research examining gender differences in reported friendship closeness indicates that females ( 1) develop closer and more intimate friendships, ( 2) stress the importance of maintaining closeness and intimacy, and ( 3) expect more closeness and intimacy in their friendships than do males (Clark & Ayers, 1993; Clark & Bittle, 1992; Foot, Chapman, & Smith, 1977). Females also report closer same-sex friendships than do males. Although males report a desire for closeness and intimacy in their same-sex friendships, the level of closeness within male emerging adults' friendships does not approach the level reported in female friendships (Buhrmester & Furman, 1987; Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1992). Finally, cross-sex friendships are more important to females during the period of emerging adulthood than to males (Blyth, Hill, & Thiel, 1982), and findings from Bukowski and Kramer (1986) and Johnson (2004) indicate that females report higher levels of closeness in their cross-sex friendships than do males.

Although gender and friendship differences in emerging adults' emotional closeness have been reported in the literature, other factors are also associated with emerging adults' friendship closeness. One factor that has received both theoretical and empirical attention is emerging adults' identity development. Because identity development may be a necessary step for the development of relationship intimacy and closeness (Erikson, 1968) and emerging adulthood is a time of identity exploration when dealing with relationships (Arnett, 2000), identity status may moderate gender and friendship-type differences in friendship closeness. Although identity development is hypothesized to play a role in the development of relationship closeness and intimacy, much of the research examining emotional closeness in emerging adults' friendships does not examine the complex set of relationships among gender, friendship type, identity, and relationship closeness.

Identity and Friendship Intimacy
As mentioned, emerging adulthood is a developmental period characterized by identity exploration (Arnett, 2000), and differences in identity status serve as a possible explanation for differences in friendship closeness during this period (Dyke & Adams, 1987, 2000; Paul & White, 1990). According to Sullivan (1953), the development of intimacy and emotional closeness is an important milestone for the development of identity during adolescence. Erikson (1968), however, argues that the development of strong identity is a necessary precursor to the development of intimacy and emotional closeness. Although Sullivan and Erikson appear to argue contradictory developmental roles of intimacy, closeness, and identity, both agree that the later period of adolescence (i.e., emerging adulthood) is characterized by the development and integration of intimacy, relationship closeness, and identity. This integration of identity and relationship intimacy and closeness leads to a circular relationship among these factors. According to Dyke and Adams (1987), as relationships become closer, individuals begin to learn more about themselves and their relationship. This learning leads to increased closeness between the individuals in the relationship which promotes further identity development (Mclean & Thorne, 2003).

Gender Differences in the Identity-Intimacy Association
Previous research supports similar patterns of identity development during emerging adulthood for males and females (Schiedel & Marcia, 1985). Although Montgomery (2005) reports that higher identity statuses are associated with greater relationship intimacy and closeness, a larger body of research indicates that females typically report higher levels of intimacy and relationship closeness when compared to males with similar identity characteristics (Hodgson & Fischer, 1979; Schiedel & Marcia, 1985; Waterman, 1992). In order to explain the gender differences in intimacy development, Dyke and Adams (1987) state that "results … demonstrate that one does not have to be at a higher identity development stages to be intimate, only that the likelihood of being in a higher [intimacy] status is enhanced" (p. 232). Further, several researchers (i.e., Craig-Bray, Adams, & Dobson, 1988; Gilligan, 1982; Markstrom & Kalmanir, 2001) propose that males and females take different pathways toward developing relationship closeness and intimacy. This proposition hypothesizes that "identity and intimacy issues may be merged for females" (Dyke & Adams, 1990, p. 93), and "identity [development] precedes the emergence of… intimacy for males" (Dyke & Adams, 1987, p. 232). As a result, females' reports of relationship emotional closeness may not be as strongly related to their identity development as are males' reports of relationship emotional closeness, and this pattern is likely to continue until adulthood (Josselson, 1987).

Differences in the Emerging Adults' Focus on Same- and Cross-Sex Friendships
Identity development is associated with male and female emerging adults' reports of friendship closeness and intimacy. However, this association differs for same- and cross-sex friendships. According to Steinberg (1989) and Sullivan (1953), same-sex friendships serve as a basis for the development of closeness and intimacy during adolescence. Same-sex friendship development begins during late childhood and early adolescence, and same-sex friendship formation begins earlier than does cross-sex friendship (Sharabany et al., 1981). As a result, many individuals have formed strong same-sex friendships by the time they enter emerging adulthood (Sullivan, 1953), and the nature of these friendships is not greatly different for males and females (Buhrke & Fuqua, 1987).

Cross-sex friendships, however, develop during adolescence and emerging adulthood. Because these relationships develop at a time when individuals begin to focus on relationship closeness and intimacy as important relationship components, the development of emotional closeness in cross-sex friendships becomes an important relationship consideration for females and males (Reis, Lin, Bennett, & Nezlek, 1993). Further, the development of emotional closeness in cross-sex friendships is perceived as more significant during late adolescence (i.e., emerging adulthood) than during early adolescence (Camarena, Sarigiani, & Petersen, 1990). Finally, Connolly, Craig, Goldberg, & Pepler (1999) state that males and females view cross-sex friends similarly and increasingly describe these relationships according to their intimacy-related characteristics (i.e., emotional closeness).
- Johnson, Durell, Brady Evelyn, McNair Renae, Congdon, Darcy, Niznik, Jamie, & Samantha Anderson; Identity as a moderator of gender differences in the emotional closeness of emerging adults’ same and cross-sex relationships; Adolescence; Spring 2007; Vol. 42; Issue 165.

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Personal Reflection Exercise # 6
The preceding section contained information about gender differences in closeness and intimacy needs related to friendships.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section of the Manual in your practice.  Affix extra paper for your Journaling entries to the end of this Manual.

QUESTION 20
What was found to be the main differences in reported friendship closeness for females? Record the letter of the correct answer the Answer Booklet.

 
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