Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Gender, Gender Role Identity, and Type of Relationship as Predictors of Relationship Behavior and Beliefs in College Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Gender, Gender Role Identity, and Type of Relationship as Predictors of Relationship Behavior and Beliefs in College Students

Article excerpt

The authors explored the relationship of gender, gender role identity, and type of relationship-same-sex friendship, cross-sex friendship, or romantic relationship--to relationship behaviors and beliefs among 429 college students. They discuss implications for individual and group counseling, consultation, and primary prevention on college campuses.

The formation of close relationships, both close friendships and romantic relationships, is a critical part of the psychosocial development for college adults who are in the traditional age range (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). In particular, the college or university is an important context for the development of close relationships (Rayfield, Llabre, & Stokes, 1987). Close relationships can serve as an important source of support during times of transition, including adjustment to college (Ponzetti & Cate, 1988; Rayfield et al. 1987). Having close friends has been shown to contribute to success and retention in the freshman year (Upcraft & Gardner, 1989), and friendship itself has been found to be important for college students' adjustment and self-esteem (Paul & Kelleher, 1995; Ponzetti & Cate, 1988). Furthermore, friendships are imporant for an individual's mental health (Ponzetti & Cate, 1988; Rayfield et al., 1987).

Close relationships differ according to type. For example, romantic relationships, same-sex friendships, and cross-sex friendships are though to differ in nature. Cross-sex friendships may present a number of challenge to the friendship dyad because of the ambiguity that can surround such relationships (O'Meara, 1989). This ambiguity is assumed to be due to gender role socialization that leads men and women to view one another in romantic or sexual terms rather than in terms of friendship alone (Monsour, Harris, Kurzweil, & Beard, 1994). O'Meara identified four challenges in cross-sex relationships: an emotional bond challenge (i.e., how do the cross-sex friends feel about each other); the sexual challenge (i.e., the amount of sexual tension between the friends, if any); the equality challenge (i.e., whether the man and the woman are equal in the relationship); and the audience challenge (i.e., managing the assumptions of others about the relationship). Monsour et al. (1994) investigated these four challenges by asking women and men to describe the extent to which they experienced these challenges in a cross-sex friendship. They found that most respondents did not experience these challenges in their cross-sex friendships; however, they were significant for a small percentage of the respondents, which is consistent with findings reported by Monsour, Harvey, and Betty (1997). In contrast, Rose (1985), in a study of college students and recent graduates, found that most respondents reported difficulties in forming and maintaining cross-sex friendships and that men were often motivated by sexual attraction to initiate a cross-sex friendship. Difference in types of relationships is supported by Buhrke and Fuqua (1987) as well, who reported that men experienced greater closeness and support in cross-sex relationships than in same-sex relationships.

It is generally agreed that men's and women's same-sex friendships differ in nature. Women's friendships are likely to be more unstructured and more intimate than men's friendships (Mazur, 1989). Women's friendships are generally described as "expressive" and "face-to-face," whereas men's friendships are considered "instrumental" or "side-by-side" (Auhagen, 1996; Bell, 1981; Fischer & Narus, 1981; Lewis, 1978; Wright, 1982). Some research (Barth & Kinder, 1988) has found greater involvement and solidarity in women's same-sex friendships than in men's. In addition, results of a study of same-sex relationships by Buhrke and Fuqua (1987) indicated that women experienced greater closeness, and greater satisfaction with the closeness, in their relationships than did men, and, in the same study, women reported more diverse activities than did men in same-sex relationships. …

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