8.6 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: What are the intricacies of gender and friendship?

8.6 Analyse gender differences in friendship


There have been many debates on the existence of gender differences in various aspects. As we talk about matters pertaining to friendship we may wonder whether such differences may be present. Maccoby (1990) claims that in friendship, there are distinct gender differences. These are seen from the early years.


According to the view, 3-5 year old girls are more willing to share their favourite things with friends than boys. For instance if a girl carries a delicacy for snacks at breaktime, she becomes very careful to share it with a friend whereas a boy in the same position is likely to eat it alone. If such a boy wants to share, anybody not necessarily a friend becomes the beneficiary. This means that among the young boys, there is no distribution between friends and the others.


In friendship, even at an early stage, girls share feelings and are more likely to mention the potential for intimacy but boys hardly talk about their inner feelings. At around 6 years, girls tend to spend time with a single chum but boys interact in groups. Hence, girls’ friendships are intimate and based on personal disclosure whereas boys friendships are general.


The individual friendships at around 7-8 years are same sex exclusively. In such friendships gender differences that have been identified include:

  1. Girls are keen on benefiting the other person in friendship but boys are somehow egocentric.
  2. Girls seek close attachment and greater degrees of trust  and loyalty than boys.
  3. Girls friendships are more exclusive than boys. This means that it is very difficult to join two girls who are friends but boys are not very particular as long as they cope. This could be attributed to the presence  and absence of self disclosure respectively.
  4. At adolescence girls need friends for emotional support. They need friends to assist them  understand themselves, to express their needs and to share their thoughts and feelings. Boys at this stage want friends who can meet their instrumental or tangible needs, that is they look for friends who can give concrete help in meeting their needs.


The gender differences in friendships have not yet been empirically accounted for. Nevertheless, there are some assumptions that have been associated with the differences. The differences could be attributed to the fact that

  1. Males simply do not need closeness and emotional support that females need.
  2. Males may have the same emotional needs as females but may not feel free to express them.
  3. Males may fear that the expression of their needs for friends who can give emotional support may make them look less masculine.


In the light of gender differences in friendships, study boys and girls’ interaction patterns and write a report


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