Washington: Girls are even more devastated than boys, when their friends let them down and fail to meet their expectations, a new study has suggested.
In a Duke University study, the researchers found that pre-teen girls may not be any better at friendships than boys, despite previous research suggesting otherwise.
The findings suggest that when more serious violations of a friendship occur, girls struggle just as much and, in some ways, even more than boys.
The girls in this study were just as likely as boys to report that they would seek revenge against an offending friend, verbally attack the friend and threaten to end the friendship when their expectations were violated, such as telling one of their secrets to other children.
The girls also reported they were more bothered by the transgressions, felt more anger and sadness, and were more likely to think the offence meant their friend did not care about them or was trying to control them.
The study co-authored by Julie Paquette MacEvoy and Steven Asher showed 267 fourth- and fifth-grade children 16 hypothetical stories in which they were asked to imagine that a friend violated a core expectation of friendship.
These stories included a friend failing to hold up responsibilities in a joint school project, resulting in a bad grade for both friends, and a friend shrugging off the seriousness of another friend’s sick pet, saying, “It’s no big deal, it’s just a pet.”
For each story, the 9- to 11-year-olds from Granville County, N.C., and Providence, R.I., were asked how they would feel if the incident really happened to them, how they would interpret the friend’s behaviour, what they would do and how much the incident would bother them.
“Our finding that girls would be just as vengeful and aggressive toward their friends as the boys is particularly interesting because past research has consistently shown boys to react more negatively following minor conflicts with friends, such as an argument about which game to play next,” Asher said.
“It appears that friendship transgressions and conflicts of interest may push different buttons for boys and girls,” he added.
The study found that anger and sadness played significant roles in how boys and girls reacted to offending friends. For both genders, the more strongly they felt a friend had devalued them or was trying to control them, the more anger and sadness they felt.