The development of adult friendship intimacy

Eva Lorraine Kaufman, Fordham University


The present study was designed to develop a more comprehensive view of adult friendship intimacy, through comparisons with relevant concurrent variables and developmental correlates. Based on Erikson's and Sullivan's developmental theories, the construct of friendship intimacy was conceptualized as a combination of behavioral and emotional aspects of a one-to-one, nonromantic relationship. Undergraduates aged 17 through 24 (n = 120) were studied, since the two theorists suggested that intimacy emerges at that age. Several constructs were hypothesized to be related to intimacy: loneliness (assessed by the UCLA Loneliness Scale), social support (measured by the Perceived Social Support - Friend Form), self-disclosure (from the Jourard Self-Disclosure Questionnaire), attachment to parents (assessed by the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment) and sex role identity (according to the Extended Personal Attributes Questionnaire). Best-friendship intimacy level was determined by quantitative analysis of responses to the revised Friendship section of the Intimate Relationships Interview. Independent t-tests explored age and sex differences. The results supported predictions that best-friendship intimacy is negatively associated with loneliness and positively linked to perceived social support from peers, self-disclosure to the best friend and traits traditionally viewed as feminine. As anticipated, femininity was more predictive of intimacy than was masculinity. Also as expected, best-friendship intimacy level was somewhat higher for women and was unrelated to amount of time spent daily with friends in general. In addition, spontaneous definitions of friendship intimacy, elicited from participants, supported the study's conceptualization of the construct. The hypothesized age difference in intimacy level was not found, and friendship intimacy was unrelated to attachment to father and minimally correlated to attachment to mother. Intimacy correlated negatively with frequency of contact with the best friend, but was positively linked to number of friends. Several benefits of friendship intimacy seem clear, including reduced loneliness and stress and greater social connectedness. There may be a combination of social skills and/or personality attributes which facilitates the formation of closer relationships in general. The picture that emerges here suggests that friendship intimacy is both the collaborative achievement of two people, and the expression of each individual's capacity for closeness.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Kaufman, Eva Lorraine, "The development of adult friendship intimacy" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9215350.