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Title:The Conversations of Female Friends at Three Ages: The Importance of Fantasy, Gossip, and Self-Disclosure
Author(s):Mettetal, Gwendolyn Wallace
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Social
Abstract:Our knowledge of children's friendships is still quite limited. The purpose of this study was to sample the natural conversations of friends of ages spanning the school-age years to provide a description of the conversational content. Fantasy, gossip, and self-disclosure were hypothesized to be important content areas for 6 to 7 year-old friends, 11 to 12 year-old friends, and 16 to 17 year-old friends, respectively.
A total of 45 pairs of girls filled the cells of the 2 (acquaintance: best friend vs. acquaintance) x 3 (age: young vs. middle vs. old) design. Girls were randomly paired with their best friend or an acquaintance and videotaped during a half hour unstructured conversation in the laboratory. These conversations were coded using the content categories of fantasy, activity talk, several types of gossip, high and low intimacy self-disclosure, and miscellaneous talk. Each segment of conversation was also given a positive or negative evaluation code, to reflect the overall tone of the interaction during that segment.
Activity talk, rather than fantasy, was more common in friends than acquaintances and decreased with age. Both categories are compatible with the young child's concept of a friend as a playmate. The lack of fantasy may have been due to the confinements of the laboratory. Gossip was hypothesized to be important in the middle (11 to 12) friends' conversations, but friends and acquaintances gossiped equally. In age trends, there was a shift in the major type of conversation from activity talk in the young children to gossip and low intimacy disclosure in the middle and old groups. This may be due to an increased interest in the psychological aspects of self and other, and a view of talking itself ("just talking") as a shared activity. High intimacy disclosure increased with age and was more common in friends, supporting social penetration theory, at least in adolescent females.
A general model of friendship was proposed that includes some variables that are present in all friendships, such as feelings of intimacy and affection, and responsive behavior. Other variables, such as concepts of friendship and the particular content of conversations, may be affected by age, sex, and culture. Exploratory descriptive research from an interdisciplinary perspective was suggested.
Issue Date:1982
Description:183 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8302935
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1982

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