Dynamics of Friendship Reciprocity Among Professional Adults


  • Paul M. Olk,

    Corresponding author
    1. Daniels College of Business
      University of Denver
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    • 1

      Funding to write this paper came from a scholarship grant from the Daniels College of Business. The authors thank Marta Elvira and Greg Bigley for their contributions to data collection. The authors contributed equally to the paper.

  • Deborah E. Gibbons

    1. Graduate School of Business and Public Policy
      Naval Postgraduate School
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Paul M. Olk, University of Denver, 2101 S. University Boulevard, Denver, CO 80208. E-mail: polk@du.edu or to Deborah E. Gibbons, Naval Postgraduate School, Ingersoll Hall 333, 555 Dyer Road, Monterey, CA 93943. E-mail: degibbon@nps.edu


Friendship is generally a reciprocal relation, yet many enduring ties are not symmetrical. Sometimes, only one member of a dyad considers the other a friend, or may see their relation as a close friendship while the other does not. Existing theories imply that personal and social attributes may influence the likelihood of reciprocity in friendship. In this longitudinal study, we found that demographic and educational attributes had little effect, but relative gregariousness and popularity consistently influenced development and persistence of unequally reciprocated friendships in 2 cohorts of executive MBA students. Additionally, higher gatekeeping power predicted greater tendency to befriend members of different age categories. Although gatekeeping power correlated directly with unequal reciprocity, the effect was mediated by gregariousness and popularity.