Gender Differences in Adolescents' Behavior during Conflict Resolution Tasks with Best Friends

By Black, Katherine A. | Adolescence, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview
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Gender Differences in Adolescents' Behavior during Conflict Resolution Tasks with Best Friends


Black, Katherine A., Adolescence


ABSTRACT

This study examined gender differences in adolescents' behavior during conflict resolution tasks with their best friends. It also examined gender differences in adolescents' descriptions of those friendships. Thirty-nine adolescents were videotaped while discussing unresolved problems with their best friends. In addition, adolescents completed the Friendship Questionnaire (Furman & Adler, 1982). The results indicated that there were significant gender differences. On the conflict resolution tasks, females were rated lower in withdrawal and higher in communication skills and support-validation than were males. On the Friendship Questionnaire, males rated their relationships with best friends higher in conflict than did females. Methodological considerations are discussed.

Numerous studies have documented gender differences in children's and adolescents' peer interactions and friendships. Several of the findings are particularly noteworthy. First, females and males differ in the number of friends with whom they interact. Males spend more time in coordinated group activity, and females engage in longer episodes of dyadic interaction (Benenson, Apostoleris, & Parnass, 1997). In addition, males have larger peer networks than do females, although there is evidence that this difference disappears by adolescence (Benenson, 1990; Montemayor & Van Komen, 1985; Urberg, Degirmencioglu, Tolson, & Halliday-Scher, 1995).

Females and males also differ in the level of intimacy within their friendships. In general, female friendships involve more intimacy than do male friendships (Clark-Lempers, Lempers, & Ho, 1991; Crockett, Losoff, & Petersen, 1984; Hunter & Youniss, 1982; Jones & Dembo, 1989; Lansford & Parker, 1999; Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1993; Parker & Asher, 1993; Sharabany, Gershoni, & Hofman, 1981). Females are more likely than males to disclose thoughts and feelings to their friends and to seek out friends for advice (Dolgin & Kim, 1994; Papini, Farmer, Clark, Micka, & Barnett, 1990). Further, females report being closer to, and receiving more support and greater understanding from, their friends (Berndt & Perry, 1986; Bukowski, Hoza, & Boivin, 1994; Clark & Ayers, 1993; Furman & Buhrmester, 1992; La Greca & Lopez, 1998; Reisman, 1990). According to McNelles and Connolly (1999), there are gender differences in the behaviors adolescents use to establish intimacy, defined as the sharing of an affective experience; fema les establish intimacy through discussion and self-disclosure, and males establish intimacy though shared activities. Likewise, self-disclosure predicts emotional closeness in females' friendships, but both shared experiences and self-disclosure predict emotional closeness in males' friendships (Camarena, Sarigiani, & Petersen, 1990).

Finally, there are gender differences in the amount of conflict between friends, with more conflict occurring between males than between females (Furman, 1996; Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1993; Miller, Danaher, & Forbes, 1986). In addition, there are differences in how females and males choose to resolve conflicts. Miller, Danaher, and Forbes (1986) reported that, during free play sessions, males were more likely to use physical force or threat to resolve conflicts, whereas females were more likely to use a mitigating strategy, such as clarifying the other child's feelings, changing the topic, proposing a compromise, or leaving the situation. Chung and Asher (1996) as well as Rose and Asher (1999) found that, in hypothetical conflicts with peers (e.g., a classmate refuses to return a puzzle piece that the subject needs to finish a puzzle), females were more likely to recommend prosocial strategies and males were more likely to recommend hostile or coercive strategies. These conflict resolution strategies have i mportant implications for children's friendships, as they were correlated with number of friends and with peer acceptance.

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