The Influence, Importance, and Expression of Heterosexual Same-Sex Male Friendships

Brittany Benson, Brent Castro, Jackie Graf, and McKenna Pratt

One of the most significant parts of life is relationship. Even biblical support is evident, emphasizing relational importance: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, New International Version). The specific relationship of same-sex male friendships will be further investigated. It is first crucial to consider the foundation for all relationships, which occurs during early formative years. Therefore, the role and development of childhood and adolescent male friendships will be highlighted. Other significant aspects of male friendships to expand include its value, the positive and negative affects, how it is expressed, and various barriers that limit connection potential. Examining these various components of heterosexual male friendships can provide greater insight into the essence of masculinity.

Gender Differences in Children and Adolescents

Many researchers suggest that gender differences in friendship relationships are not innate, but emerge at some time during early childhood. Though there seems to be little or no difference between boys and girls in their response to peers’ distress in preschool (Farver & Branstetter, 1994), by adolescence significant differences in friendships between genders have already emerged (Poulin & Pedersen, 2007).

In their 1994 study, Farver and Branstetter found that there was no significant difference in the responses of boys and girls to peers’ crying episodes. The study was conducted in three child-care centers. All data was naturalistic; crying episodes were observed and recorded as the occurred naturally. The findings of this study suggest that boys and girls do not exhibit innate differences in the ways that they interact in friendships. These differences must emerge in later childhood.

Even though gender differences do not translate into differences in prosocial behavior in preschool, research shows that by the age of three to four years old a child is able to both identify themselves as male or female (Slaby & Frey, 1975) and understand gender expectations or roles (Knafo, Iervolino, & Plomin, 2005). Maccoby’s (1998) study found that because of this development in gender identity, boys and girls tend to develop a preference to play with friends of the same gender (as cited in Cunningham, Thomas, & Warschusky, 2007). Smith and Hart’s (2002) study shows that the friendship groups of boys tend to be larger while girl’s friendship groups tend to be dyads or triads (as cited in Cunningham, Thomas, & Warschusky, 2007).

Gender is not only a deciding factor in friendship structures in children, but there are also differences in quality of friendship between genders. In Schraf and Hertz-Lazarowitz’s (2003) study, they found that relationships were stronger among girls, even though girls tended to have fewer friends than boys did. Girls’ friendships had higher levels of companionship, closeness, help, and security (as cited in Cunningham, Thomas, & Warschusky, 2007). Though an age group is not specified, a study by Eisenburg and Fabes (1998) challenges Farver and Branstetter’s (1994) findings. It suggests that girls exhibit more prosocial behaviors in their friendships than boys do (as cited in Cunningham, Thomas, & Warschusky, 2007). In contrast, Caldwell and Peplau (1982) find that boys value independence and competition, as opposed to closeness and harmony, in their friendships (as cited in Cunningham, Thomas, & Warschusky, 2007). Aggressive behavior is also found more often in boys’ friendships than it is in girls’ (Lansford & Parker, 1999).

A study by Rose and Asher (1999) found that boys were lower than girls in prosocial goals and higher than girls in antisocial goals within their friendships. Boys also endorsed lower friendship quality than girls did. The authors speculated that this lower friendship quality rating within a school study context could be skewed because boys tend to initiate fun and exciting activities outside of school and, in this way, are resourceful companions (Rose & Asher, 1999).

Most of the research done with children in deciding gender differences in peer interaction and quality in friendships is conducted using friendship dyads. However, in Lansford and Parker’s (1999) study, triads are used. The authors believed patterns of intimacy are more likely observed in a dyad because the two children are isolated from others and, therefore, the broader social context is ignored. By studying triads they thought that their findings would be more naturalistic. False intimacy would not be as readily observed as it would in dyads. They hypothesized that the differences among gender triads would be less exaggerated than the differences observed between gender dyads given that the social context in studies using dyads was removed. They found that while there was more intimate sharing among triads of girls and more aggressive behavior in triads of boys, there were no significant differences in triads of boys and girls that related to responsiveness to members of the group, hierarchy within the group, ability to stay on task, or in an orientation toward working individually rather than collectively. These smaller differences between genders when viewing them in triads rather than dyads supports the researchers’ view that differences between elementary school aged children are less pronounced when the social context is accounted for (Lansford & Parker, 1999).

According to Feiring (1999), it is during early adolescence that the gender barrier, often observed in childhood, is broken and individuals begin to form friendships with the opposite sex and same-sex friendships (as cited in Poulin & Pedersen, 2007). The combined research of Maccoby (1998), Stattin and Magnusson (1990), Rubin, Bukowski, and Parker (1998), and Bukowski, Sippola, and Newcomb (2000) suggest three possible reasons for variation in the timing that this gender gap is broken. The first possibility is pubertal maturation. Early-developing individuals, especially girls, are more likely to associate with the opposite sex than their later-developing peers. The second reason for breaking the gender barrier is the individual’s status within their peer group. Often times it is the more popular individuals who initiate opposite sex friendships first. The third possible reason is antisocial behavior. Individuals who exhibit antisocial behavior are more likely to have more opposite sex friendships at a younger age. This is possibly because their antisocial behavior makes them more attractive to the opposite sex (as cited in Poulin & Pedersen, 2007).

Even though the interest in opposite sex friendships increases during adolescence, same-sex friendships are still predominant during this time. About 75 percent of each adolescent’s group of friends belonged to their same gender group (Poulin & Pedersen, 2007). This fact points to the importance of same-sex relationships during the adolescent years.

In the study by McNelles and Connolly (1999), it is found that the roles of conversation, gossip, and shared activities led to more affective joining. When two individuals are more affectively intimate as a result of such behaviors, self-disclosure increases. Affective intimacy and self-disclosure were found to increase between grades nine and ten, but stay stable from grades ten to eleven. This is true for both genders; there was a lack of evidence to support any gender difference in boys’ and girls’ shared affective involvement.

Since it has been found that there is no difference between boys’ and girls’ affective intimacy in adolescence, the issue becomes with whom this intimacy is shared. Though most adolescent girls reported higher levels of intimacy in their same-sex friendships, boys reported higher levels of intimacy in their opposite-sex friendships (Poulin & Pedersen, 2007). Having a girl present in a friendship seems to be the common denominator in an individual’s perception of the relationship’s intimacy and provides a possible explanation as to why girls report higher intimacy in same-sex relationships than boys do. These aspects of developing friendships during childhood and adolescence sets the stage for understanding the value and role of relationships for men in their futures.

The Influence on Male Friendships

Limitations Despite the Value

Male friendships can be a source of comfort and a chance to express vulnerability that may never be explored or discovered without such relationships. However, most males do not have the ability to cultivate such relationships because the idea that closeness with another male is considered a threat to their masculinity (Grief, 2006). The thought of closeness with another male can also attach homophobic fears. However, Lewis (as cited in Grief, 2006) states that the barrier to closeness between males is not just homophobia but is also a lack of role models, a fear of being vulnerable, and competition that arises between men. Another researcher, Meth, identifies men are being taught to control their emotions, and consequently, the opportunities to connect with other men are greatly restricted out of their own concern for pride and avoidance of being shamed (as cited in Grief, 2006). If these emotional issues for men are left unresolved then they may bring such patterns of interaction into the family and childcare responsibilities.

Grief (2006) conducted one-on-one interviews with 386 male participants in which they were questioned about their views on their male friendships. The subjects ranged in age from 21 to 85 years old, with an average age of 38 years. Two-thirds (65%) of the subjects were white, 29% were African American, and the rest were evenly divided between Hispanic, Asian, and Arab. The vast majority (82%) were Christian/Protestant. Two thirds of the sample was married. The answers received from single and divorced men were included as these men provided information as to what they might bring into a family in terms of their views of friendships.

A series of 13 open-ended questions were developed to gain insight into how males perceive friendships and the effects on their family life. The questions discussed included the following: 1.What is friendship and what does a friend mean to you? 2. Are friendships important to you? 3. Do you believe you have enough friends? 4. How have friends helped you (are they a source of social support?) and how have you helped friends? and 5. How do you establish and maintain friendships with men? (Grief, 2006, p. 6)

The researchers found men in this study indicated that friends make a positive impact in their lives (Grief, 2006). Friends are considered somebody who accepts them for who they are and share a mutual care for one another. Mutual caring is a prerequisite for friendship by a number of men. A friend would also listen and accept the individual whether they were right or wrong. When the importance of friendships is evaluated for males, the majority of the people responded that male friendships are important because there are some things only men can talk about with each other.

Males indicated that friendships are characterized by helpfulness and encouragement such as: Giving advice, giving encouragement, being a sounding board (listening), lending money, helping move, helping with home-maintenance, providing companionship, buoying spirits, and providing humor. Friendships can provide a sense of togetherness and unity for males (Grief, 2006).

The implication of Grief’s (2006) study demonstrates that male friendships have a positive influence on the lives of men. If men were to be surrounded by other males who share similar interests as themselves and be allowed to share their frustrations and pain with each other, while still being accepted, then the male might finally become more expressive in his emotions with his wife. As a result, a man might show the world that he does indeed have feelings. Grief’s (2006) study indicates that male friendships can have overarching benefits to men’s lives.

Men and Loneliness

Recognizing the importance of friendships can highlight the negatives if lacking. If men do have an inability to develop friendships that can meet their desire for intimacy, it can often lead to a man feeling a sense of loneliness. Loneliness is defined as negative feelings that exist when there is a difference between desires for interpersonal affection and intimacy and what one actually receives (Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007). A study conducted by Crossley and Langdridge (as cited in Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007) displayed that women are more relationship oriented and drink less alcohol than men due to greater fulfillment in their relationships. Knox, Vail-Smith and Zusman (2007) did a study that focused on men. Their goal was to understand the correlation of male loneliness and alcohol as a support.

Participants in this study were enrolled in a personal health course at East Carolina University during the 2004 fall semester. Of the 50 sections of the course being taught, ten sections were randomly selected to be involved in this study. All 377 undergraduates attending class the day the survey was offered chose to participate. Among the respondents, 57% were women and 43% were men. Their ages ranged from 17 to 39, with a median age of 18 years. Of the sample as a whole, 57.3% were first year students, 30% were sophomores, 10.6% were juniors, and 2.1% were seniors (Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007).

A 51-item questionnaire was developed. This instrument included demographic items and items pertaining to relationships, self-concept, alcohol use, and other health-related behaviors. To assess the degree to which the respondent felt lonely (e.g., “I feel a deep sense of loneliness”) he/she indicated their level of agreement on a Likert scale, from (1) “strongly disagree,” to (2) “disagree,” to (3) “agree,” to (4) “strongly agree” (Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007, p. 274-275). The category of “neither agree nor disagree” response was removed from the analysis, with difference of means tests utilized to identify significant differences.

Over a quarter of the men (25.9%) compared to 15.9% of women experienced college life in a context of intense loneliness. There was also no significant difference between whether the student lived on or off campus or whether the student was a member of a fraternity. However, there were several statistically significant differences regarding if a person was involved in an emotional relationship. Of the male respondents (36.1%) reported that they were involved in an emotional relationship with one person. When it comes to searching for a romantic partner, men reported “finding a girlfriend/boyfriend” significantly more important for their enjoyment than women (Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007).

When questions arose regarding ability to make friends, most men acknowledged that relationships did not come easily for them. More men than women (9.3% vs. 2.3%) reported difficulty knowing how to make friends. The self-concept results displayed that men were more likely than women to report feeling like a loser. When it came to questions relating to alcohol consumption, men revealed that they take part in this activity more than women. Men admitted that they sometimes think that they drink too much (Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007).

The research of this study displayed the effects of loneliness on men and how they appear lonelier than woman because of their inability to meet their needs through friendships. As a result, men may turn to alcohol consumption. The concept of social learning theory suggests that for most men they need to be seen as independent and should have no desire to seek help from others, which makes it easier for males to isolate themselves. The social learning theory emphasizes that men are taught to seek sex, not love. This may account for the fact that most men in this study had no girlfriend but were looking for one. The absence of a love partner may be part of a much larger issue; however, since these men seemed inadequate in their relationship skills in general, reporting that they did not know how to make a friend is significant. It is important to acknowledge that the men wanted connections but felt unable to make friends. This can also transfer over in other areas of their lives, such as with romantic partners. It is implied that to be alone is considered to be a man and that needing any type of friend shows weakness. Therefore, the researchers illustrated that alcohol consumption is an escape for some men, while still demonstrating their masculinity (Knox, Vail-Smith & Zusman, 2007).

Intimacy and Competition In Same-Sex Friendships

Intimacy

After understanding the affects of friendships, it is important to expand some elements it encompasses, including intimacy and competition. Intimacy refers to the disclosure of personal information, such as problems, feelings, and concerns. Intimacy may also refer to a feeling of affection or closeness. Intimacy is considered a process in which a person feels understood, validated, or respected and cared for (Reisman, 1990). It can further be defined as mutual self-disclosure and verbal sharing, declarations of liking or loving each other, and acts of affection, such as hugging (Lewis, 1978). It depends on both the partner’s self-expression and the other’s response. Self-disclosure is an important factor in the amount of intimacy experienced. Intimacy may be expressed thorough social support, trust, mutual understanding, affection, and emotional expressiveness. (Fehr, 2004).

People value intimacy in their friendships. They consider it one of the most important aspects of their friendships. Studies have shown that males are less oriented than females toward intimacy in interpersonal relationships (Mark & Alper, 2002). Most men are not very emotionally intimate with other males. However, although they report having more male best friends than female best friends, males reported placing a greater confidence in, asking for advice regarding important decisions, and spent more time with, their best female friends than they did with their best male friends. Studies seem to suggest that men in all-male college groups were less likely to be intimate and open, as compared to women in all-female groups. They tended to talk less about themselves, their feelings, and relationships with others than women did. Further, older males were not as likely to have as many intimate friends as older women, and were less likely to replace the friends they did not stay in contact with. Unmarried males tended to have less close friends from both sexes than females did, and married males did not turn to their close friends for therapeutic purposes as often as their spouses. Males tend to have more frequent social contacts than females do, but males typically limit their social interaction to their children and spouses (Lewis, 1978).

Men report more same-sex friendships than women do. However their friendships are not classified as close, intimate, or characterized by self-disclosure (Lewis, 1978). Males reported having more friends than females in young adulthood, but women have more friends than men in later adulthood. Women are more intimate and self-disclosing in their same-sex friendships than males are. Women are more likely to report having confidants, or intimate friendships and state that they value and desire relationships that emphasize intimacy, emotional sharing, and discussions of personal problems (Reisman, 1990).

Self-disclosure is a vital component to many close friendships (Lewis, 1978). Self-disclosure is the primary way in which intimacy is developed in friendships (Fehr, 2005). However, studies have shown that males tend to be lacking in the area of self-disclosure among their friends (Lewis, 1978; Mark & Alper, 2002). According to some empirical research, results have shown that women tend to me more self-disclosing than males. However, researchers have shown that males are more willing than women to disclose about the “masculine” aspects of themselves and women are more willing to disclose about the “feminine” aspects of themselves. Therefore suggesting that, women and men are more willing to disclose information about the aspects of themselves that are similar to their sex role orientation (Snell, Belk, Flowers, & Warren, 1988). College age males tended to disclose to their female friends, much more than to their closest male friends (Lewis, 1978). Other researchers have shown that men and women rate self-disclosure as important to a friendship; however, findings suggest that women found the link between self-disclosure and friendship to be more important (Snell et al., 1988; Rubin & Shenker, 1975). Women reveal more about their interpersonal relationships than men do, relating to their gender specific task of the “social-emotional specialist.” Men tend to reveal more about political and social attitudes than women, which related to their gender specific role of a “task specialist.” The social-emotional females tend to express feelings and exchange information about intimate matters, such as sex and interpersonal relationships (Rubin & Shenker, 1975). Men do not reveal as much personal information about themselves as women do (Lewis, 1978). Women stressed that trust and having someone to talk with were more important in their friendships, while men seemed to value the sharing of activities and having a pleasurable time together (Reisman, 1990).

Other theorists and studies further suggest that even though males were reported to be less self-disclosing in their relationships with same-sex friends than females, males report feeling just as close in their friendships. This may simply be due to the fact that males and females experience intimacy differently, and in different ways. Women reported feeling intimacy to one another through talks, while males report feeling intimacy by participating in shared activities (Reisman, 1990). Men were more likely than women to participate in shared activities, and women were more likely than men to participate in intimate conversations (Singleton & Vacca, 2007).Therefore, while females are more self-disclosing with their same-sex friends than males, males report feeling just as close and satisfied with their friendships as women. However the results did not show this. The results showed that those who rated their friendship low in self-disclosure tended to rate these friendships lower in closeness experienced, as well as satisfaction (Reisman, 1990). Males report having friends, they just practice friendship in a different way. Men seem to satisfy their desire for meaningful and intimate relationships through activity rather than thorough verbal expression, as women do (Levy, 2005).

Women’s friendships are characterized by talking more about relationship issues, feelings and emotions, and personal matters, whereas men’s friendships are activity based, revolving around sports. Therefore, men’s talks usually involve topics such as sports, work, cars, and their discussions rarely involve emotional or personal issues. Therefore, women’s relationships can be characterized as “face-to-face” relationships, whereas, men’s relationships can be characterized as “side-by-side” relationships. Women’s friendships are likely to be more intimate than males’ friendships. This may be due to the fact that women are more likely to engage in the types of activities that help to develop intimacy. Studies have suggested that men and women agree on the path to intimacy, but they simply choose not to follow it (Fehr, 2004). Other theorists have argued that men and women experience the same amount of intimacy; they just develop intimacy in different ways. Women experience intimacy through verbal expression, while men develop intimacy by participating in shared activities.

Impact of Gender Roles and Culture on Intimacy

Some differences found in the amount of intimacy and self-disclosure experienced between men and women may be due to the different social roles encouraged within the American culture. However, some of these differences in socialization are in the process of being reduced, and we therefore may hypothesize that the amount of intimate self-disclosure experienced in friendships may increase in males, making the importance of intimacy and self-disclosure equally important among both sexes (Rubin & Shenker, 1975).

Young girls in elementary school tend to interact in groups of twos or threes, while boys tend to interact in larger groups, such as, competitive team sports and gangs. Boys seem to form extended friendship networks, while girls choose to participate in exclusive friendship groups. From a young age, girls develop social skills and are able to communicate their feelings better and are more nurturing than boys. However, boys learn to follow rules and get along with different types of people, even if they do not like them. Girls seem to have more intimate and exclusive friendships than boys have. Adolescent girls seemed to prefer to meet with their same-sex friends in smaller and more intimate settings than boys. Girls described a close friend as being understanding and sharing feelings, whereas, boys described the friend as being someone who provides help when it is needed. However, both sexes appear to confide in their other-sex friendships and relationships during adolescence and young adulthood, and they become aware of this difference in amount of self-disclosure they experience. Furthermore, both sexes reported feeling more comfortable to disclose with females, and Reisman (1990) suggests that this may be due to the fact that the earliest human relationship is between the infant and the mother. Rather, the developmental trend shows that, both sexes are more intimate with their same sex friends during childhood and early adolescence, and they become more intimate with opposite-sex friends in later adolescence and young adulthood (Reisman, 1990). The deep structure or social meaning of relationships remain stable across the life span, but the surface structure, or social exchange, differs depending on one’s developmental age (Fehr, 2005).

Men are raised primarily by women. At a young age, usually around preschool, boys are encouraged to separate from the mother and begin to identify with the father. This leads to less empathy expressed by males. Due to this separation, men may associate being a man with interpersonal distance as opposed to close personal ties and commitments. Men seem to want intimate friendships as much as women do. They indicate that they would like to have more friendships, see old friends more, and deepen the relationships they currently have (Levy, 2005).

In the United States, we are encouraged to value friendships. Levy (2005) suggests that, “We are told to judge others by the friends they keep, and we measure life success or failure by the number of friends who mourn our passing” (p. 201). However, sadly, in America, and some other Western cultures, intimacy among men in friendships is strongly discouraged. As a result of this, many adult males have never experienced having a close male friend, and do not know what it means to care for a male friend, without experiencing feelings of guilt and shame (Lewis, 1978). Male friendships in America are typically not characterized by a personal sharing, trustfulness, and emotional investments (Lewis, 1978).

Barriers to intimacy

There are some barriers that hinder the emotional intimacy that men can experience. Some of which include, demands of traditional male roles in our society, pressures to compete, homophobia, avoidance of vulnerability and openness, and a lack of good role models (Lewis, 1978). Some of these barriers are placed on the males that directly affect the amount intimacy one is able to experience.

One barrier to intimacy is homophobia. According to Lewis (1978), homophobia is defined as the fear of one’s being or appearing to be homosexual. American culture looks down upon the touching between males, unless it is done roughly, such as in a sport’s game. This is primarily due to the fact that the American culture has difficulty distinguishing between sensual and sexual touch (Lewis, 1978).

In American culture, one of the stereotypes of males is to be inexpressive or emotionally controlled. Boys are encouraged to be aggressive, competitive, task oriented, unsentimental, and have control over their emotions (Lewis, 1978). This directly relates to Pollack’s concept of the sturdy oak. The sturdy oak is described as possessing the manly air of toughness, confidence, and self reliance (Pollack, 1998). If a man is not able to share his feelings or show his weaknesses with his friends it can be detrimental. Lewis (1978) suggests, that “some men become so skilled in hiding their feelings, and thoughts that even their wives and closest friends do not know what they are feeling, if they are anxious, depressed or afraid” (p. 114). Always trying to be manly can have a detrimental effect on a male, it may cause extra stress, it takes more energy, and may even be a factor playing into their shorter life span (Lewis, 1978).

Another barrier may be the lack of role models for males. Most males do not have a role model to follow, especially one that models sharing of affection between males. Sadly, studies have seemed to suggest that half of the males who participated in a study stated that they do not remember their fathers giving them a hug. The American culture is simply not interested and does not encourage male-to-male affection (Lewis, 1978).

Another barrier to intimacy may be camaraderie. Men experience closeness and bonding when they participate as members of a group. Lewis (1978) suggests “men report their closest male relationships as discovered through war or spots, when they are bonded together to kill others” (p. 109). However, in comradeship, men may experience intense, but not necessarily intimate relationships, due to the tendency to feel that they belong to a group. Thus group membership involves adherence to group norms and rules. Emotional expression is typically not a part of group norms; therefore comrades may experience intensity in friendships, but lack intimacy in their friendships. This lack of intimacy in comradeship may also be due to the fact that individuals participate parallel to one another, rather than with each other. They may participate in the same activity, but do not necessarily have to be engaged with one another (Levy, 2005).

Most of the intimacy that males experience takes place during competitive games that men can play together, such as sports. If men do not have a game to play or are not tied together on a sports team or in a war effort, they do not relate as well to one another (Lewis, 1978). Furthermore, the four themes of American masculinity described by Pullock (1998) are, no sissy stuff, be a big wheel, be the sturdy oak, and give ‘em hell. These four themes may limit the amount of intimacy that a man may feel, and may also limit the development of meaningful relationships for males (Lewis, 1978).

Competition

Singleton and Vacca (2007) describe interpersonal competition as an “ongoing process in which two people are initiated by social comparison and are motivated by self-evaluation to out-do each other on various tasks and abilities” (p. 617). Competition involves seeking outer people out as a source of comparison and evaluation. If one feels threatened, a common response is to compete, or try to perform at a higher level than another individual. However, in order to compete, one must feel that their performance can improve and that their performance may be able to help them out-do their opponent. Studies conducted by Singleton and Vacca (2007), show that males have a higher level or rate of competition than females. Many men describe their closest male relationships as a common experience or interest in war or sports (Lewis, 1978). The American culture in particular stresses competition. Competition is present in almost every aspect of life in America today (Singleton & Vacca, 2007). In America many “power trips” are directed towards other males, in order to win approval, wealth and status. Therefore, it is more difficult for male friends to self disclose, because disclosure can lead to vulnerability, which is not a positive thing in a competitive setting (Lewis, 1978).

Some research shows that boys, at a young age, learn that part of being a man is to compete and win. In one study, 41 boys between the ages of 8 and 11 were studied. They understood that males should be rugged, independent, able to take care of themselves, despise sissies, be prepared to fight when a bully comes along, be athletic and able to run fast, able to play rough games, and able to play many games for that matter (Lewis, 1978). Males are more occupied with winning, and females are more concerned with working towards a mutual agreement in which all or most are happy. If males view all other males as a source of competition, it may be difficult for them to reach out to other males. College age males reported that, learning to let their guard down and trust other men was difficult because they had been taught to be aware and alert for an attack, even from one of their closest friends. A main form of winning, is exploiting the opponent’s weaknesses, therefore men have a difficult time making themselves vulnerable with other male friends, and instead close themselves off from one another (Lewis, 1978). Therefore, competition can be a barrier to intimacy as well.

The negative impact of competition on satisfaction can be accounted for by the fact that interpersonal competition endangers conflict. Men are more competitive than women; therefore friendships between males are more competitive than friendships between females. The gender difference found in same-sex friendships is consistent with gender-role expectations; therefore findings suggest that men’s friendships are more competitive than women’s friendships because friendships are based on the cultural norms of male and female gender roles. Furthermore, because men participate more in shared activities, they are provided with more opportunities and settings that encourage and promote competition, such as playing games. The interpersonal competition was negatively associated with the amount of satisfaction experienced in a friendship. Women were more satisfied with their same-sex friendships than men were). Competition can have a detrimental effect on friendships and can lead to a decrease in the amount of satisfaction experienced in that relationship. Greater interpersonal competition and lower intimacy may help to explain whey men found some same sex friendships to be less satisfying than women (Singleton & Vacca, 2007).

As previously expressed, researchers have identified that gender differences in friendships begin in later childhood. These differences become more distinct and recognizable throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Some of the differences expressed were larger group play, lower quality of friendships, and greater emphasis on activities for boys than girls. Despite differences, intimacy in adolescence onward was recognized as a significant focus for both genders. The value and desire for male friendships is evident from early boyhood; however, many men face limitations for friendships to cultivate. Today’s culture expects men to be emotionless and show no vulnerability to other males. Therefore, the desired connection for male-male friendships is hindered. According to some of the researchers, men struggle to form intimate friendships when conforming to the stereotypical male model and identified loneliness as a common result.

Just like in childhood, male friendships were found to focus on sharing of activities rather than self-disclosing discussions as with most females. The usual level of intimacy achieved through game playing was examined as less than through interpersonal communication. Another barrier of male friendships discussed was competition. Researchers expressed competition as a frequent element in male friendships since it is often perpetuated through their shared interest or activities. Competition was determined to place greater strain on the relationships.
Overall, same-sex male friendships are a necessary and desired aspect of a man’s life. It is also obvious that men do desire intimacy, regardless how it is displayed. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how today’s culture may be placing men in gender straight jackets and the implications of such limitations. The internal emotions, external expression, and barriers surrounding same-sex male friendships are extremely important to highlight in order to gather a better understanding of men.

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