Date of Award

Summer 8-19-2016

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Douglas Nangle

Second Committee Member

Cynthia A. Erdley

Third Committee Member

Shannon K. McCoy

Additional Committee Members

Emily A. P. Haigh

Rachel L. Grover

Abstract

Friendships between members of the opposite sex become more common and increase in importance across adolescence (e.g., Kuttler, La Greca, & Prinstein, 1999); however, little research has examined these relationships. Of the limited research, most has focused on comparing mean-level differences in friendship features between cross-sex (CS) friendships and same-sex (SS) friendships. Overall, this research has suggested that CS friendships are lower in positive quality compared to SS friendships. These findings offer little insight into why CS friendships continue to be valued and maintained.

The current study used two approaches to better elucidate the value of CS friendships in a sample of 309 college students. First, this study added to the existing literature by evaluating both positive and negative dimensions of quality in SS and CS friendships. Results suggested that although greater positive quality was reported in SS friendships, lower negative quality was simultaneously reported for CS friendships.

Second, the current study examined participants’ self-reports of the interactions that occurred within their CS and SS friendships, as well as what they wanted to occur to determine how the fulfillment of desired behaviors contributed to satisfaction in each friendship. This approach allowed participants to determine the types and amount of interactions that they would like from their friendship partners, rather than relying on pre-determined notions of quality. Polynomial regression with response surface analysis was employed to examine how discrepancies between received and desired maintenance impacted satisfaction. Results partially confirmed a matching hypothesis, with greater satisfaction reported when levels of received and desired maintenance were similar. However, in contrast to the interdependence theory hypothesis, greater levels of satisfaction were reported at higher levels of maintenance. Importantly, response surface results suggested that high overprovision was associated with a corresponding decrease in satisfaction for SS friendships. This result is in contrast to traditional, “more is better” conceptions of friendship features and suggests that participants may experience “too much of a good thing” with friends. Overall, the use of these two approaches is thought to be a more balanced investigation of CS friendships than previous assessments of positive quality that have dominated the literature.

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