Group Norms and Intimacy Among Best Friends: A Normative Cross-Sectional Developmental Study

Thumbnail Image
Publication or External Link
Menzer, Melissa Mary
Rubin, Kenneth H.
The focus of the current dissertation was on 1) the prevalence and nature of observed gossip behavior in the friendships of children in grades five and six, and 2) the associations of observed gossip behavior and perceptions of friendship quality. Scholars have argued that gossip is a normal part of communicative development and it also has been linked to perceptions of close and positive friendship (Gottman & Mettetal, 1986). The findings of the current dissertation indicated that gossip was prominent in children's conversations with their best friends, and that different forms of gossip behavior were evident. Results also confirmed the association of gossip and perceptions of friendship quality (Parker & Gottman, 1989; Sullivan, 1953), and that these relations were stronger for girls than for boys (Foster, 2004; Gottman & Mettetal, 1986; Leaper & Holliday, 1995). In addition, these relations varied depending on other contextual factors, such as whom the gossip was about. Generally, gossip functioned in two apparently contradictory ways for the friendships of girls. On the one hand, gossip was associated with positive aspects of friendship quality. On the other hand, gossip was also associated with negative aspects of friendship quality, such as conflict. Perhaps gossip was more important for the friendships of girls due to the motivations and importance of friendships for girls. In other words, girls are argued to focus their relationship efforts on building close dyadic relationships that involve high levels of disclosure and conversation whereas boys are argued to engaged in more activities that do not require as much disclosure or conversation (e.g., sports, video games; Findlay & Coplan, 2008; Leaper & Smith, 2004; Schneider & Tessier, 2007). Moreover, it may be that conflict resulted from greater engagement and higher frequencies of interaction within the friendship and thus may not necessarily indicate relationship difficulties. The results of the current dissertation highlighted the complexity of the ways in which gossip and perceptions of friendship quality were inter-related in the friendships of children, as well as provided direction for further investigations of the general functions of gossip.