Sex Differences in Intimacy Levels in Best Friendships and Romantic Partnerships
Pearce E., Machin A., Dunbar RIM.
© 2020, The Author(s). Objectives Close romantic and friendship relationships are crucial for successful survival and reproduction. Both provide emotional support that can have significant effects on an individual’s health and wellbeing, and through this their longer term survival and fitness. Nonetheless, the factors that create and maintain intimacy in close relationships remain unclear. Nor is it entirely clear what differentiates romantic relationships from friendships in these terms. In this paper, we explore which factors most strongly predict intimacy in these two kinds of relationship, and how these differ between the two sexes. Results Aside from best friendships being highly gendered in both sexes, the dynamics of these two types of relationships differ between the sexes. The intimacy of female relationships was influenced by similarity (homophily) in many more factors (notably dependability, kindness, mutual support, sense of humour) than was the case for men. Some factors had opposite effects in the two sexes: gift-giving had a negative effect on women’s friendships and a positive effect on men’s, whereas shared histories had the opposite effect. Conclusion These results confirm and extend previous findings that the dynamics of male and female relationships are very different in ways that may reflect differences in their functions.