Women who value empowerment tend to have more cross-gender friendships, a study finds

Why do some people prefer to be friends with the opposite sex and others not? A study published in Journal of Individual Differences examines how personal values ​​influence a person’s preference for same-sex or heterosocial friendships.

Friendship is a very important prosocial support system in most people’s lives. People can choose their friends based on many different factors such as: B. common interests, closeness, personality and more. Previous research has shown that most people prefer to have same-sex friends, but most people still have at least one friend of the opposite sex. This study anticipated individual differences in preference for same-sex or opposite-sex friendships based on traits such as self-improvement, self-transcendence, and more.

Study author Tobias Altmann recruited 1,333 German participants online and on campus. The ages ranged from 18 to 77 years, with 68.3% of the sample being women. In addition to a measurement of personal values, all participants also completed measurements of heterosociality or the tendency to have friends of the opposite sex.

The results showed that people who valued conformity and traditional values ​​were more likely to have same-sex friendships than opposite-sex friendships. Contrary to hypotheses, those who valued achievement and power or benevolence and universalism did not show increased friendships between the sexes. This could possibly be due to the fields of the participants (mainly psychology, social work and education) or because ambitious people seek friendship with many people regardless of gender. Women who value self-determination, which includes autonomy and independence, tended to have more friendships with opposite sexes. Men showed no significant associations with openness scores.

“For women, but not for men, it was associated with going their own way to reach a larger number of cross-gender friends,” explains Altmann. “Self-regulation is part of the willingness to change values, which are contrasted with the preservation values ​​of safety, tradition and conformity. Given that security and tradition were negatively associated with heterosociality, the positive association with self-determination was plausible. However, the non-significant findings in men were surprising. It may be that in men, inner dispositions generally play a secondary role in forming their friendships.”

This study has taken important steps towards understanding gender differences in preference for heterosociality. But like any research, it has some limitations. One such limitation is that half of the participants were a purpose sample of college students, which might limit generalizability. Another limitation is that the personal values ​​measure showed low Cronbach’s alpha, a measure of internal consistency that can affect the validity of the results.

“In summary, values ​​partially explained friendship decisions in terms of same-sex and cross-gender friend preferences, and did so differently for women and men,” Altmann wrote in his study. “However, given the exploratory nature of the study and the small effect sizes, iterations and extensions are needed to further substantiate these results and explore other potential associations.”

The study “Sex Differences Partially Moderate the Relationships Between Personal Values ​​and the Preference for Cross-Sex Friendships (Heterosociality)” was published on March 11, 2022.

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