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Gender‐Differentiated Experience in the Peer Culture: Links to Intimacy in Preadolescence

Abstract This study tested claims that gender differences in intimacy are attributable to gender‐differentiated experiences in the peer culture (i.e., male and female ‘worlds’). Participants were 188 Canadian preadolescents (10–12 years, 106 girls) who completed questionnaires regarding the intimacy of their same‐sex best friendship, intimate support received from peers, and two dimensions of culture–gender composition of the friendship network and participation in communal (i.e., intimacy‐promoting) and agentic (intimacy‐repressing) activities. Consistent with the ‘two worlds’ explanation (a) communal activity participation related positively and team sports negatively to same‐sex friendship intimacy, but the latter only for boys, and (b) having other‐sex friends predicted same‐sex friendship intimacy for boys but not girls. The two worlds explanation, though supported, requires revision to accommodate findings that male and female preadolescents’ activity participation overlapped considerably, intimate friendships were not limited to intimate contexts, agentic activities potentiated both agentic and communal goals, and peer cultural variables predicted intimacy better for boys than girls.

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