Running head: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 1. Feasibility of Male and Female Friendships Based. on Expectations of Self-Disclosure

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1 Running head: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 1 Feasibility of Male and Female Friendships Based on Expectations of Self-Disclosure Rachel E. Nevill University of Kentucky

2 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 2 Abstract Male and female friendships have long since been an area of concern and intrigue. Many studies have been conducted which have investigated friendship expectations among males and females in mostly same-sex friendships. Along with these, additional studies have been conducted that have examined the idea of a friends with benefits relationship in cross-sex friendships, as well as studies involving strictly platonic cross-sex friendships. The friends with benefits type of relationship has easily been found to be the most controversial of cross-sex friendships, but what about the strictly platonic version of cross-sex friendships? This literature review will serve as a type of search engine for this topic as it will go into detail about a few studies that seem helpful to this area. Likewise, this review will compare the friendship expectations of each gender, the consequences of a friends with benefits relationship, and how friendship maintenance differs based on feelings one friend may have for another. All of these comparisons will be done while still focusing on the main point of this review that is self-disclosure. Ultimately, this literature review will relate these differences to the feasibility of a cross-sex friendship. Keywords Cross-sex friendships, self-disclosure, friendship expectations, friends with benefits, friendship maintenance, relationship maintenance

3 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 3 We are all able to relate to the fact that a relationship will fail with a lack of selfdisclosure, whether that connection is made through personal experience or not. However, do we know if certain levels of expectation for self-disclosure can equally hinder a friendship? Selfdisclosure, as defined by Adler and Proctor, is the process of deliberately revealing information about oneself that is significant and would not normally be known by others (2009). Selfdisclosure is one way people can judge the strength of their relationships (Adler & Proctor, 2009). For example, the following factors in this definition point to its necessity and importance in a friendship: self-disclosure must be deliberate, it must contain significant information, and it must be information that is not known by others. Words such as deliberate, significant, and not known by others indicate that the other person trusts you with such information, thus broadening the meaning of the friendship. The act of self-disclosure is like taking a risk on whether or not your friendship is at that level yet. Here, reciprocity, meaning both friends disclose equally, plays a big role in that risk. However, there is no guarantee that your self-disclosures will bring out self-disclosures by others (Adler & Proctor, 2009). One of the most unique and diverse friendships would be that of a male and female, making it very difficult for the level of reciprocity to match well in such friendships. One might assume the expectations of a female vastly differ from that of a male. What are the levels of expectation each gender has regarding self-disclosure and how do these expectations play a role in cross-sex friendships? Ultimately, is it feasible for a male and female to be close friends based on self-disclosure expectations?

4 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 4 Friendship Expectations Over the years, through experience and observation, people have learned that women have a tendency to share more and expect more sharing out of their friends, while men like to discuss things a little less. This could mean that they might also expect a little less self-disclosure than women do. Friendship expectations are cognitive conceptualizations about attributes that individuals would like their friends to possess, as well as intimacy-producing behaviors that individuals would like their friends to enact (Hall, 2010). Friendship expectations play an important role in the formation, maintenance, and dissolution or friendships, as well as represent a standard to which individuals will conform to please others while also using it to judge their friends (Hall, 2010). Furthermore, these friendship expectations are created through past and present experiences with friends, creating a cycle that modifies and reinforces individuals expectations (Hall, 2012). Same-sex female friendships experience more self-disclosure based on the higher expectations women hold for friends (Hall, 2010). In his study, Hall predicts that females will have higher friendship expectations of communion (the broad category in which self-disclosure can be found) than males (2010). Hall distinguishes reciprocity from disclosure in this study, saying that some aspects of reciprocity can be achieved through disclosure, but disclosure is rarely attempted without trust and loyalty (2010). The study concludes with the fact that Hall s hypothesis that females have higher friendships expectations of communion was correct, noting a medium-sized sex difference in the category (Hall, 2010). Self-disclosure is also an important and critical part of developing intimacy in a friendship (Hall, 2012). In a more recent study, Hall concludes that there are two primary dimensions of friendship expectations: Socio-emotional, which includes self-disclosure, and

5 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 5 resource-attractiveness (2012). Upon further consideration of Hall s study in 2010, in which he proposed four factors, he narrowed this down to only three important factors when conducting his study in Self-disclosure made the cut and was still considered an important factor in friendship expectations. Interestingly, Hall s 2012 study had the same general trends for communion expectations, but pointed out a distinction in age: older male and females have a bigger difference in expectation than do boys and girls. This is interesting to my research being that when you are young, sex difference rarely plays a role in friendships. It is when we age that male and female friendships become a bit more controversial. Friends with Benefits A good example of why male and female friendships are so controversial, and even intriguing, is the idea of friends with benefits. Mormon and Green s research serves as an attempt to disprove the friends with benefits relationship by searching for any actual benefits in this type of friendship (2009). These benefits are then compared to those of a strictly platonic, opposite sex pair of friends. Friends with benefits is a complex, cross-sex friendship in which the pair engages in sexual activity with no attachments, instead only acting like platonic friends (Mormon & Green, 2009). In this study, it was found that the five most common activities reported to take place in a platonic cross-sex friendship included self-disclosing, watching TV, going out to eat, talking on the phone, and going to sporting events. The three least common activities in the same friendship were kissing, sexual intercourse, and oral sex (Mormon & Green, 2009). This provides strong evidence into the fact that cross-sex friendships can, and do, exist without the sexual behavior. Upon further investigation of these activities, it was found that the second most significant

6 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 6 difference was in the amount of self-disclosure, being that friends who were involved in a friends with benefits relationship reported more self-disclosure than those not involved (Mormon & Green, 2009). Participation in a friends with benefits relationship was found to have a significant effect on self-disclosure (Mormon & Green, 2009). Men, more so than women, favored the friends with benefits relationship more, perceived it to be more appropriate, and felt higher levels of sexual tension within his current cross-sex, platonic friendship (Mormon & Green, 2009). Additionally, those who have participated in a friends with benefits relationship returned similar results. Contrasting this study slightly, Ledbetter, Broeckelman, and Krawsczyn study cross-sex friendship as a way to view the communication process and to note the reasons for certain forms of communication in cross-sex friendships (2010). They state that cross-sex friendships possess more ambiguous social meanings, stronger sanctions and pressure from social network members, and a greater risk of relational termination (Ledbetter, Broeckelman, & Krawsczyn, 2010). They also hypothesize that cross-sex friendships communicate mostly online as a way to hold on to the strictly platonic relationship (2010). In conclusion, it was found that sex-based differences occurred while face-to-face and on the telephone, but not online, thus supporting their hypothesis (Ledbetter et al., 2010). This means that cross-sex friendships would rather solely communicate online than risk romantic intent when speaking face-to-face. This also goes to credit Mormon and Green s findings being that there is evidence that a platonic cross-sex friendship can exist, but only in certain environments.

7 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 7 Friendship Maintenance Now, just because men and women have slightly different expectations doesn t necessarily mean they cannot have a successful friendship. Maintaining friendships means to interact in such a way that helps a relationship remain satisfying, stable, and/or at a desired level of intimacy (Weger & Emmett, 2009). Two types of maintenance strategies exist: common maintenance behaviors which involve behaviors that strengthen the bond or increase the depth of a relationship, and relationship specific maintenance behaviors which have specific functions in different types of relationships (Weger & Emmett, 2009). When one member of a cross-sex friendship wants to turn the relationship from friends to lovers, it can have a big influence on the way both friends maintain that relationship (Weger & Emmett, 2009). The friend who wants to be romantic engages in more contact and activity with the other, more support and flirtation, and less talk about other romantic interests (Weger & Emmett, 2009). The friend who wants to stay friends might avoid high levels of common relationship maintenance as a way not to lead the other on (Weger & Emmett, 2009). Weger and Emmett conclude their study by stating that the degree to which relationship maintenance behaviors are used directly relates to the level of romantic interest of one or both friends (2009). While there was little literature on the specifics of self-disclosure and how that relates to the success of platonic, cross-sex friendships, it does happen to provide a great starting point for this type of research. There is a variety of research that all pour into the same main category of cross-sex friendships. In both the 2010 and 2012 studies, Hall concludes that females have a greater expectation for self-disclosure in friendships. Mormon and Green found that cross-sex friends who have participated in friends with benefits experience a higher level of self-disclosure

8 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 8 than those who do not (2009). Ledbetter, Broeckelman, and Krawsczyn suggest that cross-sex friendships avoid communicating face-to-face in order to save the platonic side of the friendship and to avoid risking romantic intent (2010). Finally, Weger and Emmett concluded that a member of a cross-sex friendship was more likely to maintain the relationship if they carried some sort of romantic feelings for the other (2009). It is also important to note that while there is an ample amount of cross-sex studies, a majority of them are only about sexual tension and/or studies of same-sex friendships evaluating sex differences. Finding research based solely on the interaction of platonic, cross-sex friendships was difficult. Furthermore, according to this research, my question of the feasibility of male and female friendships was unanswered. It would be beneficial to conduct a study moving forward. This study, ideally, would include people who are in a platonic cross-sex friendship. The study could ask questions about the levels of self-disclosure present in the relationship as well as the levels of sexual tension. This information would be able to be related and bring us closer to the answer of whether or not male and females can have a successful and meaningful friendship without the benefits.

9 Rh: SELF-DISCLOSURE IN CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS 9 References Adler, R.B. & Proctor, R.F. (2009) Looking Out Looking In. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Hall, J. A. (2010). Sex differences in friendship expectations: A meta-analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-22 inclusive. doi: / Hall, J. A. (2012). Friendship standards: The dimension of ideal expectations. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, doi: / Ledbetter, A. M., Broeckelman-Post, M. A., & Krawsczyn, A. M. (2010). Modeling everyday talk: Differences across communication media and sex composition of friendship dyads. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, doi: / Morman, M. and Green, K., "Perceived benefits of the friends with benefits relationship" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 95th Annual Convention, Chicago Hilton & Towers, Chicago, IL Online <PDF> from Weger, H., & Emmett, M. C. (2009). Romantic intent, relationship uncertainty, and relationship maintenance in young adults' cross-sex friendships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(6-7), doi: /

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