Gender Rules: Same- and Cross-Gender Friendships Norms


We examined the relationships between gender and attitudes towards same- and cross-gender friendship norms for a sample of
269 West Coast, U.S., college students. Participants evaluated violations of friendship norms described in vignettes in which
the friend’s gender was experimentally manipulated. Women differentiated more between types of violations in their evaluations
than did men. There also were several significant gender differences in approval of norm violations. As expected, women tended
to have relatively high expectations of their friendships in situations involving trust and intimacy, likely resulting from
the high value they placed on affiliation and emotional closeness. Women were more disapproving than men of a friend who canceled
plans or failed to come to their defense publicly. Men and women judged a woman who betrayed a secret more harshly than a
man. Generally, expectations for cross-gender, versus same-gender, friends were more similar than different; there were no
significant cross-gender interactions, with one exception. Men were particularly less approving of a male, as compared to
a female, friend who kissed them in a greeting. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of respondents (81.6%) reported that
men and women can be friends. A minority of women were cautious in their responses, with women (18.5%) more apt to reply “maybe,”
than men (9.9%). Overall, these findings provided evidence that gender, rather than cross-gender, norms primarily influenced
friendship evaluations, and demonstrated that even a subtle manipulation of gender can trigger gender stereotypes. They suggested,
too, that women may hold their friends to stricter “rules” than men.

  • Content Type Journal Article
  • Category Original Article
  • Pages 1-12
  • DOI 10.1007/s11199-011-0109-z
  • Authors
    • Diane Felmlee, Department of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
    • Elizabeth Sweet, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA
    • H. Colleen Sinclair, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA
    • Journal Sex Roles
    • Online ISSN 1573-2762
    • Print ISSN 0360-0025
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