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TURNER, E. R. (2002). The Differences in Levels of Trust in Male and Female Same-sex Friendships . National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved October 6, 2022 .

The Differences in Levels of Trust in Male and Female Same-sex Friendships

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (bhalla@loyno.edu)
The purpose of the present research was to see if there was a difference in trust between female and male same-sex friendships. A sample of 57 male and 72 female undergraduate college students participated in the study. We hypothesized if the same-sex friendship was between females then there would be more trust than between males. To test this hypothesis, we used a survey consisting of four parts. Part I included basic questions on the number of friends, activities done most frequently with close friends and the criteria for choosing best friends. Part II was a general interpersonal trust scale. Part III and Part IV measured trust when thinking of a close, same-sex friend. Females were found to have higher mean scores on Part III and Part IV of our survey than men, indicating that they have more trust in their close friends than males. There were no differences found between males and females on Part II of the survey, indicating that our findings are not due to differences in general trust levels. In conclusion, more trust was found in female same-sex friendships than male same-sex friendships.
Friendship is a fundamental aspect of human nature. Friendships can include a simple acquaintance to casual circle of friends to a life long companion. People make friends to improve their social status, for companionship and sometimes for a shoulder to cry upon. O’Connor (1992) defines friendship as a way to fulfill internal needs or motives that are central to healthy personality functioning. Friends influence one’s actions, goals, and accomplishments. Friends are voluntary, often transitory and predicted upon positive effect (Floyd, 1995). A close friend is someone to trust, to share life’s experiences and to enjoy another’s company. Most people have one or two close friends, but they may have up to five (O’Connor, 1992). An acquaintance is a casual, cordial relationship that generally has very little, if any, emotional ties. Close friendships are central to this study.There are many differences between the interactions of males and females within their same-sex friendships. Past research has indicated that while friends are equally important to males and females, female friendships are more intimate. Females report more often that they prefer conversation and the discussion on personal topics (Elkins & Peterson, 1993). In contrast, males are more interested in sharing physical activities, particularly sports, with their same-sex peers (Elkins & Peterson, 1993). Floyd (1995) proposed that men would report their closeness based more on shared interests and instrumental activities and women would report their closeness based on more verbal interaction and emotional expressiveness. In this study, men reported that closeness was manifested through drinking together, shaking hands and talking about sexual issues. Women, on the other hand, reported closeness more strongly related to talking on a deep, personal level, hugging, saying that they loved each other and how much they know about each other and shopping. Floyd concluded that there were no significant gender differences in overall assessments of relational closeness, commitment, or satisfaction instead just a different way that male and females express closeness. O’Connor (1992) further emphasized the point that females defined friendships more often as “someone I can trust” and “someone I can call on for help,” whereas men’s definitions focused on “someone whose company I enjoy” and “someone I go out with.” Female friendships are consistently rated as more intimate than males’ friendships especially with the discussions of negative events and exchange of private information. Murray (1999) believes the reason males are not as trusting as females can be traced back to middle to late adolescence. For many teen-aged males, intimate same-sex relationships are replaced by distrust. Murray claims the reason they lose trust and intimate friends is that they most embrace the “androgynous sex role” and not become too feminine. By doing this they are shutting down their feelings of empathy and sympathy (Murray, 1999). Miller (1983) thinks that the situation has grown to the point that people think intimate male friendship is something homosexual at first glance. Going along with Floyd’s idea on the differences in activities shared between same-sex friendships of men and women, Roy, Benenson and Lilly (2000) analyzed sex differences in individuals’ desire to spend time with their close friends in times of difficulty and in times of success. They believe that peers are equally significant to the development of both males and females and that there also seems to be no difference in the number of friendships during late adolescence (Roy, Benenson & Lilly, 2000). Roy et al. (2000) believe that female and male same-sex friendships differ significantly in the content of their interactions. Males were found to interact more actively with each other in physical activities, whereas females were more emotion-based in their interactions. Knowing that males are less verbal than females, the researchers worded their questions of their measure in preferences for actions. Roy et al. found that there one marginally significant sex difference; females indicated more trust in their close friends. They also found support for their hypothesis that women were more likely than men to want to celebrate their close friend’s successes. Besides the trust difference found by Roy et al., another difference in friendships was found by Yaughn and Nowicki (1999). Their results revealed that a complementarity of interpersonal styles was present in close, same gender relationships of women but not of men. Yaughn and Nowicki used the Relationship Closeness Inventory (RCI) and individuals measured their relationships based on the frequency of their interactions, the diversity of activities and the strength of impact on each other. Women were found to have higher RCI total, frequency and diversity scores than men. This higher score in both frequency and diversity means that females were found to interact more often with each other and do more diverse activities like shopping, dining out, talking. Males and Females did not differ in the level of impact of their close friendships and the degree of importance of their close friends on their well-being (Yaughn & Nowicki, 1999).In a similar study, Elkins and Peterson (1993) found that women’s same gender friends have a more therapeutic component, because they are characterized by intimacy and empathetic understanding. This intimacy and empathetic understanding is formed by more emotionally driven activities. Although, women’s relationships were not found to be more satisfying than men’s, they found that women describe their same-gender friendships more positively than men do. It is interesting to note that they also found that men describe their cross-gender relations as closer than same-gender ones. The trends in the past literature find that women’s friendships are more therapeutic than male friendships, because female friendships are based more on intimacy and the need for conversation. The most common conclusion in the research is that there is no difference in the importance of friendships for males and females. All the research seemed to agree that there is no difference in the amount of closeness in a same-sex friendship. The difference in closeness is a result of the basis of the same-friendship. In males this basis is in shared activities, whereas females it is in conversation and emotional activities. Because female friendships are more therapeutic and emotional based, they would have more trust. This concept has seldom been explored. Our study differed from past research, because we looked at the overall amount of trust in a friendship and we took into account interpersonal trust issues. This helped us to see if the difference in trust issues is a result of the intimacy in same-sex friendships or an underlying difference in males and females with interpersonal trust. In particular, our study examined the level of trust in the close friendships of males and females within their own gender through a survey. We hypothesized if the same-sex friendship was between females then there would be more trust than between males.


We recruited 57 male and 72 female undergraduate students of Loyola University New Orleans from different areas of study. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 25. All our participants volunteered and some were given extra credit in their psychology classes. Participants were conveniently recruited through psychology professors’ announcements at the beginning of class and through fliers on Human Subject Pool board.

Participants were given two informed consents and a male or female version of a five-page survey, depending on their gender, on white 8 ½ by 11 paper. The two forms of the survey were exactly the same except for the pronouns. The female form of the survey is included in the Appendix. The survey consisted of four parts. Part I included basic questions, for example, “how many friends do you have” and “what sort of things do you do with your friends?” Part II consisted of a general trust measure developed by Wrightsmann. It uses a Likert scale that ranges for 1 (Strongly Agree) to 5 (Strongly Disagree) and consists of twenty-five questions. We included this measure for reliability purposes. This was used to examine if the people were generally trusting or skeptical about everything. Statements include: “Hypocrisy is on the increase in society”, “Most elected officials are really sincere in their campaigns” and “Most salesman are honest in describing their products.” Part III, Specific Interpersonal Trust Scale, developed by Johnson-George and Swap, also consists of nineteen statements that must be answered on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 9 (Strongly Disagree). These questions focused on trust in a close friend. Examples of questions in this part include: “I would expect him/her to play fair” and “I could talk freely to him/her and know that he/she would want to listen.” Part IV, Trust Scale by Rempel and Holmes focused on close friendships. People were asked to indicate to the degree in which they agree or disagree with the statements, for example, “My friend can always be counted on to act as I expect.” It consisted of eighteen statements that are measured on a Likert scale, ranging from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 5 (Strongly Disagree). We used these two measures also for a reliability check.

Our research study used a quasi-experimental between groups design because gender is predetermined for the population. Our independent variable was sex of the participant and our dependent variable, the trust in same-friendship. Trust was defined as the willingness to disclose personal information to someone and the belief that they will be there in times of need. We did not operationally define friendships for the participants. This could have affected the results of our study by influencing the participants responses. The participants were tested on Loyola’s campus. When they entered the room, they were asked to be seated. They were given two informed consent sheets. We instructed them to read and sign both of them. When they were finished, we collected one of the informed consents for our records and told them to keep it for future reference. We then gave them the five-page survey mentioned above. They were asked to complete the survey honestly and were told that their answers would be anonymous. After they returned the survey, we thanked them for participation and handed them a debriefing statement. They were told to read it and ask us if they had any questions. We wrote out the debriefing because people were finishing at different times and we did not want to disturb or affect anyone still taking the survey.

Our research was guided by the hypothesis that if the same-sex friendship was between females then there would be more trust than between males. The means and standard deviations are all reported in Table 1. We performed t-tests for equality of means between men and women with our two trust scales measuring trust in a close friend (Part III and Part IV of our survey). These tests revealed that there was a significant difference in the trust scores of males and females. The mean answer for females on each statement for Part III of the survey, where each participant was asked to think of one same-sex close friend, was 7.9663 on a scale 1-9, with higher scores indicating more trust. The mean answer for men on this scale was only 7.0083. Similarly the mean for females on Part IV, another scale measuring trust between same-sex friends was 4.2645 and the mean for men 3.7442. A significant difference was found between the responses of males and females on the Friendship Trust scale (t = 5.756, p < .0001 trust scale 1; t = 6.005, p = .0001 trust scale 2) There was no significant difference in the scores of males and females on the Interpersonal Trust scale in Part II. These t-tests support our hypothesis that there is more trust in female same-sex friendships than male same-sex friendships. We also calculated Pearson correlations between number activities circled, the number of criteria for close friends circled (Part I), the general interpersonal trust scale (Part II), Part III trust scale, and Part IV trust scale. The correlations of all scales are presented in Table 2.We found that there was a significant correlation (r =.455, p < .0001), between the number of activities done most frequently with same-sex friends and the number of criteria that is important when choosing a new same-sex friend. There was also another significant correlation (r = .707, p < .0001), between the trust scales in Part III and Part IV where the participant was supposed to think of a close, same-sex friend when answering each statement.

The purpose of the study was to assess whether there was more trust in female same-sex friendships then between male same-sex friendships. In our sample of 57 males and 72 females, we did find a significant difference in the trust scores for males and females. This suggests that women do have more trusting same-sex friendships than mean. This finding is consistent with other research in which females indicated more trust in their close friends (Roy, Benenson, & Lilly, 2000). Our research also is consistent with the findings of O’Conner (1992) who emphasized that women most often described their friends as “someone I could trust.” Since there was no significant difference in male and female scores on the Interpersonal Trust Scales (Part II), we can conclude that the differences in the scores on trust within friendships (Part III and Part IV) are because women have more trust in their female friends than males do in their male friends and not that women are just in general more trusting than men. The Interpersonal Trust Scale measured levels of interpersonal trust in general, not specifically trust in friendships. The other scales (Part III and Part IV were used to measure trust in a close friend.Women were found to have higher scores on the friendship trust scales, which measure trust in a close friend in Part III and Part IV. These higher scores may be because women’s friendships are more emotionally based. This is consistent with past research that found that women more often prefer conversation and discussion on personal topics, whereas men are more interested in sharing physical activities (Elkins & Peterson, 1993). Floyd (1995) also found that women would report their closeness based on more verbal interaction and emotional expressiveness and men report their closeness based more on shared interests and instrumental activities. In interpreting the present results, readers should consider several limitations to this study. First, only undergraduates at Loyola University in New Orleans participated in this study. It may be difficult to generalize from this convenience sample to other age and social groups. For example, older heterosexual people who are married or have a significant other might have lost their connection with their same-sex peers. In addition, the first couple of questions might have bothered the participants, because they were quite repetitive. The second question asked, “how many female friends do you have?” and the fourth question asked, “How many of these females do you consider friends?” Many of them complained or made comments about Part I of the survey, asking us to define friends. Also, the survey was very long, but necessary for reliability. Overall, this study has several strengths. First, data collected remained totally anonymous so participants found it very easy to answer the questions truthfully. Second, our measures are very reliable, because we tested trust in close-friends with two parts. Another strength is that we had a large and almost equal sample size. This study has many implications on the study of sex differences. We can now understand more fully why men act with their friends differently than females. For example, men are more likely to go to bars and sporting friends, which involves less trust. Also now that we know men have less trust in friendships than women, we can find ways to build trust in male friendships. Future studies are needed to determine the extent to which our results generalize to the population. I recommend that a closer look be taken at each participant’s demographics, for example, age, family social status and place of residence. I think these subject traits influence the participant’s personality and attitude, which ultimately affects friendships. From personal experience, I believe that people from higher income families value their friends differently. It is possible that they see their friends as means to obtain something. I also think future researches look in to the emotional-based aspect women’s friendships to see how trust forms.

Elkins, L. & Peterson, C. (1993). Gender differences in best friendships [Electronic version]. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 29, 497-509.Floyd, K.. (1995). Gender and closeness among friends and siblings [Electronic version]. Journal of Psychology,129, 193-203.Miller, S. (1983). Men & friendship. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.Murray, B. (1999 July/ August). Boys to men: Emotional miseducation. APA Monitor Online. Retrieved September 30, 2002, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug99/youth.htmlO’Connor, P. (1992). Friendships between women: a critical review. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Roy, R., Benenson, J. & Lilly, F. (2000). Beyond intimacy: Conceptualizing differences in same-sex friendships. Journal of Psychology, 134, 93-101.Yaughn, E.& Nowicki, S. (1999). Close relationships and complementary interpersonal styles among men and women [Electronic version]. Journal of Social Psychology, 139, 473-479.

Appendix 1 Female SurveyPart I

Directions: Please answer the following questions honestly and to your best ability. Place your answers in the spaces provided. Please write NUMBERS in the blanks below.

1. How many friends do you have? __________

2. How many female friends do you have? __________

3. How many of these females do you consider acquaintances? __________

4. How many of these females do you consider friends? __________

5. How many of these female friends do you trust? __________

6. How many close female friends do you have? __________

7. On average, how long do you have to know a female before you consider her a close friend? __________ (please, respond in terms of weeks, months or years)

8. Do you have one female best friend? __________ (please give yes or no answer)

9. If you have one best friend (a female), how long have you known her? __________ (please, write number here)

10. Circle the criteria you consider when you chose a female friend?

Honesty Trust Appearance IntelligenceGeographical Location Social Status A good listener Family BackgroundAmbition Common Interests Athletic PowerMorality Humor Popularity Similar personality

11. What sorts of things do you do most frequently when you are with your female friends? Watch movies Bars/Pubs/Clubs Vacation GolfConcerts Drink Alcohol Dining out TanningShopping Talk Workout/ Exercise StudySporting Events E-mail Fishing Extracurricular Activities

Part II

Directions: Indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with each statement by using the following scale and by placing your answers in the space provided.Strongly Agree Mildly Agree Agree and Disagree Equally Mildly Agree Strongly Disagree1 2 3 4 5

____ 1. Hypocrisy is on the increase in society. ____ 2. In dealing with strangers, one is better off to be cautious until they have provided evidence that they are trustworthy. ____ 3. This country has a dark future unless we can attract better people into politics. ____ 4. Fear and social disgrace, or punishment, rather than conscience prevents most people from braking the law. ____ 5. Using the honor system of not having a teacher present during exams would probably result in increased cheating.____ 6. Parents can usually be relied on to keep their promises. ____ 7. The United Nations will never be an effective force in keeping world peace. ____ 8. The judiciary is a place where we can get unbiased treatment. ____ 9. Most people would be horrified if they knew how much news that the public sees and hears is distorted. ____ 10. It is safe to believe that in spite of what people say, most people are primarily interested in their own welfare. ____ 11. Even though we have reports in newspapers, radio, and television, it is hard to get objective accounts of public events. ____ 12. The future seems very promising. ____ 13. If we really knew what was going on in international politics, the public would have reason to be more frightened than they now seem to be. ____ 14. Most elected officials are really sincere in their campaign promises. ____ 15. Many major national sports contests are fixed in one way or another. ____ 16. Most experts can be relied upon to tell the truth about the limits of their knowledge. ____ 17. Most parents can be relied upon to carry out their threats of punishments. ____ 18. Most people can be counted on to do what they say they will do. ____ 19. In these competitive times, one has to be alert or someone is likely to take advantage of you.

Strongly Agree Mildly Agree Agree and Disagree Equally Mildly Agree Strongly Disagree1 2 3 4 5

____ 20. Most idealists are sincere and usually practice what they preach.____ 21. Most salesmen are honest in describing their products. ____ 22. Most students in school would not cheat even if they were sure of getting away with it. ____ 23. Most repair men will not over charge even if they think you are ignorant of their specialty. ____ 24. A large share of accident claims filed against insurance companies are phony.____ 25. Most people answer public opinion poles honestly.

Part III

Directions: For the items below think of one close female platonic friend. Indicate how strongly you agree or disagree by choosing the appropriate number from the scale below and placing it to the left of the question number. Strongly Disagree Neutral Strongly Disagree1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

____ 1. If she gave me a compliment, I would question if she really meant what was said. ____ 2. If we decided to meet somewhere for lunch, I would be certain she would be there. ____ 3. I would go hiking with her in unfamiliar territory if she assured me she knew the area.____ 4. I wouldn’t want to buy a piece of used furniture from her because I wouldn’t believe her estimate of its worth.____ 5. I would expect her to play fair.____ 6. I could rely on her to mail an important letter for me if I couldn’t get to the post office.____ 7. I would be able to confide in her and know that she would want to listen.____ 8. I could expect her to tell me the truth.____ 9. If I had to catch an airplane, I could not be sure she would get me to the airport on time.____ 10. If she unexpectedly laughed at something I did or said, I would wonder if she was being critical and unkind.____ 11. I could talk freely to her and know that she would want to listen.____ 12. She would never intentionally misrepresent my point of view to others.

Strongly Disagree Neutral Strongly Disagree1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

____ 13. If she knew what kinds of things hurt my feelings, I would never worry that she would use them against me, even if your relationship changed._____ 14. If she promised to do me a favor she would follow through.

____ 15. If she didn’t think I handled a certain situation very well, she would not criticize me in front of other people.____ 16. If I told her what things I worry about, she would not think my concerns were silly.____ 17. If my alarm clock was broken and I asked her to call me at a certain time, I could count on receiving the call.____ 18. If she couldn’t get together with me as I planned, I would believe her excuse that something important had come up.____ 19. If she were going to give me a ride somewhere and didn’t arrive on time, I would guess that there was a good reason for the delay.

Part IVDirections: Read each of the following statements and decide whether it is true of your relationship with a close, platonic, female friend. Indicate how strongly you agree or disagree by choosing the appropriate number from the scale below and placing it in the space provided in the left-hand margin.Strongly Agree Mildly Agree Agree and Disagree Equally Mildly Agree Strongly Disagree1 2 3 4 5

____ 1. I know how my friend is going to act. My friend can always be counted on to act as I expect. ____ 2. I have found that my friend is a thoroughly dependable person especially when it comes to things that are important. ____ 3. My friend’s behavior tends to be quite variable. I can’t always be sure what my friend will surprise me with next. ____ 4. Though times may change and the future is uncertain, I have faith that my friend will always be ready and willing to offer me strength come what may. ____ 5. Based on past experience, I cannot, with complete confidence, rely on my friend to keep promises made to me. ____ 6. It is sometimes difficult for me to be absolutely certain that my friend will always continue to care for me; the future holds to many uncertainties and too many things can change in our relationship as time goes on. ____ 7. My friend is a very honest person and, even if my friend were to make unbelieveable statements, people should feel confident that what they are feeling is the truth. __________

Strongly Agree Mildly Agree Agree and Disagree Equally Mildly Agree Strongly Disagree1 2 3 4 5

____ 8. My friend is not very predictable people can’t always be certain how my friend is going to act from one day to another. ____ 9. My friend has proven to be a faithful person. No matter who my friend was married to, she or he would never be unfaithful, even if there was no chance of being caught. ____ 10. I am never concerned that unpredictable conflicts and serious tensions may damage our friendship because I know we can weather any storm. ____ 11. I am very familiar with the patterns of behavior my friend has established, and he or she will behave in certain ways. ____ 12. If I have never faced a particular issue with my friend before, I occasionally worry that he or she won’t take my feelings into account. ____ 13. Even in familiar circumstances, I am not totally certain my friend will act in the same way twice. ____ 14. I feel completely secure in facing unknown, new situations because I know my friend will never let me down. ____ 15. My friend is not necessarily someone others consider reliable. I can think of sometimes when my friend could not be counted on. ____ 16. I occasionally find myself feeling uncomfortable with the emotional investment I have made in our friendship because I find it hard to set aside completely my doubts as to what lies ahead. ____ 17. My friend has not always be proven to be trustworthy in the past and there are times when I am hesitant to let my friend engage in activities that make me feel vulnerable. ____ 18. My friend behaves in a consistent manner.

Submitted 12/14/2002 12:12:03 AM
Last Edited 12/14/2002 12:26:23 AM
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