The relationship between emotional self-disclosure of male and female adolescents' friendship

Zsuzsanna Kiraly, Fordham University


This study investigated the relationship between adolescents, emotional self-disclosure to their best friend and the features of their best friendship relation (i.e., validation, help, companionship, intimacy, conflict, and conflict resolution). Male and female adolescents, emotional disclosure was examined as a function of their gender and that of the disclosure recipient. Gender differences in the various friendship features were also explored. The sample consisted of 96 (57 females and 39 males) ninth-grade students between the ages of 14 and 15 years attending a New York City public junior high school. The students were mostly Hispanic and of low socioeconomic background. A slightly modified version of the Emotional Self-Disclosure Scale was used to assess adolescents, willingness to disclose their feelings of depression, happiness, jealousy, anxiety, anger, calmness, apathy, and fear to their best same-sex and opposite-sex friends. The Friendship Quality Questionnaire was used to assess the various features of friendship: Validation and Caring, Conflict and Betrayal, Companionship and Recreation, Help and Guidance, Intimate Exchange, and Conflict Resolution. A significant relationship was found between gender and emotional self-disclosure, indicating that female adolescents were more willing than male adolescents to discuss their feelings with their best friends. Female adolescents' higher self-disclosure was due to their greater willingness to discuss all the emotions with their same-sex friends. The strongest gender differences emerged, however, for the negatively toned emotions of anxiety, apathy, depression, and fear. Male adolescents were rarely disclosing any of their feelings both in their same-sex and opposite-sex friendship relations. Male adolescents did not disclose any of their feelings more to their female than to their male friends. Significant gender differences also emerged for all of the six friendship variables, with female adolescents reporting more validation, companionship, help and guidance and intimate exchange, less conflict, and more effective conflict resolution than male adolescents in their best same-sex friendship. A significant relationship was found between emotional self-disclosure and all friendship variables, indicating that adolescents who were willing to discuss their feelings with their best friend reported more validation, support, companionship, and intimacy as well as less conflict and more effective conflict resolution in their friendship. Multiple regression analyses indicated that gender and emotional self-disclosure were equally significant predictors of Validation and Caring, Help and Guidance, and Intimate Exchange. The best predictor for Companionship and Conflict Resolution was emotional self-disclosure, whereas Conflict and Betrayal was best predicted by gender. The results of this study suggest that emotional self-disclosure plays a significant role in gaining important social provisions in friendship. It is suggested, specifically, that increasing adolescents' ability to express their feelings may help them to develop friendships that provide validation, support, intimacy, and companionship, and may help them to facilitate conflict resolution in close relationships. It is further suggested that interventions aimed at increasing self-disclosure skills may be especially valuable for male adolescents. Thus psychologists and counselors working in schools may play a valuable role in advocating friendship enhancement programs for young adolescents in the school setting. These programs could focus on relational competencies, such as self-disclosure and affective and emphatic responding, and could be delivered, most ideally, in a general social context, such as the classroom.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Kiraly, Zsuzsanna, "The relationship between emotional self-disclosure of male and female adolescents' friendship" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9938908.