Provide a developmental view of same sex friendships for girls and boys

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a study made by Serbin, Moller, Gulko, Powlishta, & Colburne (1994) children start to select same-sex friends for playtime, communication and identification as early as age 2.  By age 3, when children at at school (daycare, play groups) this segregation is even more evident. The reasons provided in the study basically state that the dynamics and level of activity of children is proportional to the dynamics and level of activity that they expect and seek of others. Therefore, the same-sex segregation is based on the need for children to maintain their cognitive and social acumen growing through enriching and imitative behaviors that, ultimately, build up their personality.

  • By age 3, children begin a process of operant conditioning in schools, at home, and even amongst each other. Operant conditioning, is the process by which kids learn what leads to what through compensation or consequences. These processes, when not learned at home or at school, tend to reproduce themselves in the playground culture when kids automatically seek each other out as behavioral models. Those kids who have a system of rewards and and consequence system at home are more likely to also replicate it in the playground along with whatever gender stereotypes are taught at home. 
  • In Erickson's theory, school age children are in the Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, and Industry versus Inferiority. These life challenges are often understood by mimicking people of the same gender and seeing how they react to the same challenges. 
  • In psychoanalytic theory, according to Freud, children feel guilty when playing with kids of the opposite sex because puberty has not yet set in, therefore, they have latency feelings of sexuality which they naturally repress. This is not an accepted notion, but a theoretical assumption based on Freud.
  • Children of school age are naturally energetic. Boys, especially tend to seek for an "alpha" male, or a leading class or playmate that matches their activity needs. It is no different than social darwinism: survival, or the constant election of the "fittest" to play.

The play culture is extremely important for childhood development. It helps children associate with others, express their feelings, learn about personal space, and helps them understand others and their differences. 

amysor | Student

Same sex friendships as you grow up start to change.

When you are in preschool, friends are just friends, gender is not a barrier.

Early in Elementary School, girls and boys start to distinguish each other with certain characteristics. Girls usally say boys have "cooties", which shows that generally boys are less neat then girls. The barriers start to come up, and same sex relationship is encouraged.

Middle School comes around, and the same sex relationships are tighter than ever. Boys will explore things boys usually do with boys. While girls will do girly things such as painting nails, with other girls.

When High School hits, same sex friendships are less common. As now, reaching their maturity, boys and girls don;t see each other as weird, but rather, as appealing. They will start to date, and the same sex friendships are less valued and now the genders crave the attention of the other.