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Gender differences in online and offline self-disclosure in pre-adolescence and adolescence

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Patti M. Valkenburg, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (University of Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands) (e-mail: p.m.valkenburg@uva.nl).

Abstract

Although there is developmental research on the prevalence of offline self-disclosure in pre-adolescence and adolescence, it is still unknown (a) how boys’ and girls’online self-disclosure develops in this period and (b) how online and offline self-disclosure interact with each other. We formulated three hypotheses to explain the possible interaction between online and offline self-disclosure: the displacement, the rich-get-richer, and the rehearsal hypothesis. We surveyed 690 pre-adolescents and adolescents (10–17 years) at three time points with half-year intervals in between. We found significant gender differences in the developmental trajectories of self-disclosure. For girls, both online and offline self-disclosure increased sharply during pre- (10–11 years) and early adolescence (12–13 years), and then stabilized in middle and late adolescence. For boys, the same trajectory was found although the increase in self-disclosure started 2 years later. We found most support for the rehearsal hypothesis: Both boys and girls seemed to use online self-disclosure to rehearse offline self-disclosure skills. This particularly held for boys in early adolescence who typically have difficulty disclosing themselves offline.

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