Harming the relationship while helping the friend: The outcomes of seeking social support about a romantic partner from women friend groups

Shardé M. Davis and Tamara D. Afifi

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Davis, S.M. and Afifi, T.D. (2014) Harming the relationship while helping the friend: The outcomes of seeking social support about a romantic partner from women friend groups. AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies, 2:1, pp. 18-44. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/9

Abstract

This study tests the idea that women friend groups might serve as conflict multipliers rather than conflict buffers during a supportive conversation about a transgression committed by a friend’s male romantic partner. Two hundred and twenty nine Black and White U.S. American women completed an online survey where they thought of a recent conflict in which they were angered by something their male romantic partner said or did and talked about it with their group of women friends of the same ethnic background. The quantitative and qualitative results indicated that Black and White women friends forged an ingroup through the process of social support. This ingroup provided support that simultaneously uplifted the women friend and derogated the male partner by virtue of verbal disapproval of his negative behaviour. These effects were associated with low levels of relational closeness between the friend in distress and her male romantic partner. Contrary to the quantitative results, the qualitative findings revealed that the nuances in Black women’s communication styles differentially contributed to the ways in which they talked about the conflict and the male partners’ negative behaviour.

Keywords: ingroup, outgroup, women friend group, ethnicity, social support, romantic relationship closeness

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