Gender issues in the interface of family experience and adolescents' friendship and dating identity

Catherine R. Cooper, Harold D. Grotevant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This study focuses on the role of family experience in adolescents' conception of the self in the context of friendship and dating relationships. Three issues are addressed: the extent of sex differences in adolescents' friendship and dating identity, how links between family experience and friendship and dating identity might differ for males and females, and whether mothers and fathers play distinctive roles in such development. A sample of Caucasian two-parent families, each including an adolescent who was a high school senior, was observed in a family interaction task designed to elicit the expression and coordination of a variety of points of view. Each adolescent was also given an interview assessing exploration and commitment in friendship and dating identity. Only one sex difference was found in identity, with females more committed in their conceptions of dating relationships than males. The key finding of the study concerns the distinctive patterns of family interaction associated with friendship and dating identity. For females, separateness in family interaction was related to their friendship identity exploration, whereas for males, the links between family interaction and exploration all involved connectedness. The different contingencies may reflect the interplay between different societal patterns of support and restriction of males' and females' exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-264
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1987


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