Some research has looked at similarities and differences between male-male and female-female friendships. While the similarities tend to outweigh the differences, there are some interesting ways that men’s friendships differ from women’s.
The most common finding is that men’s friendships tend to be more “instrumental” and less emotional, while women are much more likely than men to share emotions and feelings. Men’s friendships are often based on shared activities (e.g., poker or golfing buddies), and are more “transactional” — reciprocating favors and working together on projects. In other words, men share activities, women share feelings.
One study looked at socioeconomic differences in men’s friendships and found that working-class men have reciprocity with material goods and services (e.g., exchanging tools, or fixing cars), while middle-class men were more likely to share leisure activities, such as travel or attending sporting events.
On the whole, women tend to invest more in maintaining their friendships — calling friends regularly, meeting more frequently, etc. Men, on the other hand, don’t feel as much need to stay in touch.
One researcher who was investigating men’s friendships asked for the names and addresses of very close friends (“a friend you could call up to loan you money or help you out of a bind”). The researcher was surprised that some of these “close” friends had had no contact for many years, and in a few cases, the close friend had passed away unbeknownst to the friend!
For the most part, men’s friendships tend to be less intimate and less supportive than friendships between women. However, there is some evidence that women’s friendships tend to be more fragile than men’s.
One study found that the type and quality of men’s friendships were influenced by their parent’s friendship patterns. Men whose parents had broad and active social networks tended to have more friendships.
A very recent study suggests that one reason why men are more likely than women to go out drinking with friends is that alcohol causes men to be less inhibited and allows for more expression of emotions.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that men’s and women’s friendships have many more similarities than differences, and there is a wide range of different sorts of friendships for both men and women.
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Nardi, Peter M. (Ed.), (1992). Men’s friendships. Sage.
Vigil, Jacob M. (2007). Asymmetries in the friendship preferences and social styles of men and women. Human Nature, 18, 143-161.