When Friends Disappoint: Boys’ and Girls’ Responses to Transgressions of Friendship Expectations


  • This article is based on an unpublished doctoral dissertation submitted to Duke University by the first author. An earlier version of this article was presented at the March 2007 meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, Massachusetts. The research was supported by fellowships awarded to the first author from the Spencer Foundation and from Duke University. We gratefully acknowledge the students and staff at the elementary schools in Granville County, NC and Providence, RI who took part in this research. We also thank Daniel Blalock, Julie Buddensick, Keith Chan, Melanie Dirks, Kristina McDonald, Alison Papadakis, and Elizabeth Van Hooser for their help with data collection, data entry, or consultation on data analysis.

concerning this article should be addressed to Julie Paquette MacEvoy, Department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology, Boston College, Campion Hall 320, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Electronic mail may be sent to julie.macevoy.1@bc.edu.


In this study, the prevailing view that girls are pervasively more skilled in their friendships than boys was challenged by examining whether girls respond more negatively than boys when a friend violates core friendship expectations. Fourth- and fifth-grade children (n = 267) responded to vignettes depicting transgressions involving a friend’s betrayal, unreliability, or failure to provide support or help. Results indicated that girls were more troubled by the transgressions, more strongly endorsed various types of negative relationship interpretations of the friend’s actions, and reported more anger and sadness than did boys. Girls also endorsed revenge goals and aggressive strategies just as much as boys. These findings lead to a more complex view of boys’ and girls’ friendship competencies.