Dyadic friendships

Previous literature on friendship suggests that there are prominent differences between boys’ and girls’ networks. One study showed that, in general, girls’ same-sex dyadic friendships tend to be more exclusive than those of boys (Eder and Hallinan, 1978). There is also evidence that compared to males, females maintain stronger relationships and share higher levels of disclosure (Billy and Udry, 1985). The development of exclusive and stronger relationships among girls may make friendships between girls more conversationally intimate than friendships between boys. On the other hand, compared to girls, boys tend to have a more open network that is less intimate, more volatile, and more likely to include new friends over time (Belle, 1989). In a study of early adolescents, Phillipsen finds that girls report more support in their friendships and have less conflict than do boys (Phillipsen, 1999). A recent qualitative study reports that, although its effects are not totally oppressive, boys’ peer group culture poses obstacles in the development of close friendships because boys feel “the need to protect their vulnerability, prove their masculinity, and preserve their integrity when among their male peers” (Chu, 2005:12). The evidence does not imply that young males do not want to have intimate friendships; rather, they struggle more than girls in their efforts to achieve them.


Having a best friend has been linked to desirable developmental outcomes (e.g. Hartup, 1993). However, does not only having a perceived friendship, but an actual reciprocated one have further consequences on the well-being of the adolescent? The answer to the question is yes, and in a consistently positive manner. Consistent with Hypothesis 7a, we found strong and consistent effects of reciprocity on feelings of school belonging. Moreover, and in support of Hypothesis 7b, we find strong evidence that adolescents with reciprocated friendships enjoy higher levels of educational outcomes than those whose friendships are not reciprocated. We find that reciprocal friendships as well as those friendships that share more activities have independent and significant effects on students’ GPA. Although a direct effect of reciprocity and grades may be spurious, this suggests that youth who are isolated from peers can suffer dire consequences not only through the lack of peer support, but also through weak ties to their school.

From a study on friendship reciprocity among adolescents and its effect on social outcomes. Click through and scroll down for the conclusions of the study.

Here's hoping Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift have at least one true reciprocated friend, if we learned anything from Entourage it was the value of an intimate posse.

That Chanel handbag means "hands off my man"

Scientists have known that purchasing designer handbags and shoes is a means for women to express their style, boost self-esteem, or even signal status.

In a new study, University of Minnesota researchers discovered some women also seek these luxury items to prevent other women from stealing their man.

Researchers used five experiments featuring 649 women of varying ages and relationship statuses to discover how women’s luxury products often function as a signaling system directed at other women who pose a threat to their romantic relationships.

“It might seem irrational that each year Americans spend over $250 billion on women’s luxury products with an average woman acquiring three new handbags a year, but conspicuous consumption is actually smart for women who want to protect their relationship,” says associate professor Vladas Griskevicius.

“When a woman is flaunting designer products, it says to other women ‘back off my man.’”

More here on the research methodology. Perhaps the reason women buy new purses so often is to renew the signal strength, indicating the persistence of both income/status and devotion from the mate. As a guy I have a tough time decoding the price and brands of women's handbags so it seems likely the signal is meant for other women.

It is intriguing to decipher the differing symbols of status among different tribes. On Wall Street it's designer brand suits and wristwatches and street addresses, in Silicon Valley it's Twitter followers, IPO's, and invitations to exclusive conferences. 

Marriage and commitment being disrupted

Typically we speak about disruption when discussing technology companies, but two incumbents that we wouldn't typically associate with disruption may be under assault: commitment and marriage.

The fascinating essay A Million First Dates in the Atlantic explores the thesis that online dating is making meeting people so simple and efficient that people are less likely to commit to marriage or even long-term relationships that hit a bit of rocky waters.

After two years, when Rachel informed Jacob that she was moving out, he logged on to Match.com the same day. His old profile was still up. Messages had even come in from people who couldn’t tell he was no longer active. The site had improved in the two years he’d been away. It was sleeker, faster, more efficient. And the population of online daters in Portland seemed to have tripled. He’d never imagined that so many single people were out there.

“I’m about 95 percent certain,” he says, “that if I’d met Rachel offline, and if I’d never done online dating, I would’ve married her. At that point in my life, I would’ve overlooked everything else and done whatever it took to make things work. Did online dating change my perception of permanence? No doubt. When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. It didn’t seem like there was going to be much of a mourning period, where you stare at your wall thinking you’re destined to be alone and all that. I was eager to see what else was out there.”

The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?

The article is intriguing throughout. Another choice excerpt:

In 2011, Mark Brooks, a consultant to online-dating companies, published the results of an industry survey titled “How Has Internet Dating Changed Society?” The survey responses, from 39 executives, produced the following conclusions:

“Internet dating has made people more disposable.”

“Internet dating may be partly responsible for a rise in the divorce rates.”

“Low quality, unhappy and unsatisfying marriages are being destroyed as people drift to Internet dating sites.”

“The market is hugely more efficient … People expect to—and this will be increasingly the case over time—access people anywhere, anytime, based on complex search requests … Such a feeling of access affects our pursuit of love … the whole world (versus, say, the city we live in) will, increasingly, feel like the market for our partner(s). Our pickiness will probably increase.”

“Above all, Internet dating has helped people of all ages realize that there’s no need to settle for a mediocre relationship.”

The ideal economic model of online dating sites wants to work well enough to attract customers but not so well that you find a lifelong mate and stop subscribing to their services, so a model of lifelong casual dating might end up being the perfect world for them, if not society. The article includes an interesting analysis of why couples who meet online are more likely to hook up earlier than in the past.

Disruption, as those who study the topic tend to know, usually comes from the low-end. It's not surprising, then, that marriage and commitment is being disrupted at the low end, where bad marriages and relationships reside. Divorce might be seen as a healthy thing if it were not so costly: I have not seen statistics on this, but based on this article I'd predict we've seen a healthy rise in pre-nuptial agreements this past decade.