Gender and friendship norms among older adults

Diane Felmlee, Anna Muraco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The authors examined same- and cross-gender friendship norms in a sample of 135 adults (average age 73 years). Participants evaluated a friend's behavior, quantitatively and qualitatively, in vignettes in which the friend's gender was experimentally manipulated. Gender often significantly, though modestly, influenced normative evaluations. Women frequently had higher expectations of friends than men and placed a greater emphasis on intimacy. Women were more disapproving of violations of friendship rules, such as betraying a confidence, paying a surprise visit, and failing to stand up for a friend in public. However, both men and women were less approving of a man than a woman who greets another friend with a kiss or who requests to stay overnight. Respondents' open-ended comments reflected positive attitudes regarding cross-gender friendships. Most findings demonstrated that men and women across a wide age range held similar cultural norms for close ties, norms of trust, commitment, and respect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-344
Number of pages27
JournalResearch on Aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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