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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-sex 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
Gender Differences in the Identity-Intimacy Association
Differences in the Emerging Adults' Focus on Same- and Cross-Sex Friendships
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).
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