How Men and Women Choose Friends Differently

Men and women prefer best friends of the opposite sex and second-best friends of the same sex. Until middle age, that is, when friendship patterns change in ways important to evolution. 

What's the Latest Development?


By analyzing 2 billion anonymous telephone calls and 500,000 text messages, researchers have reached a better understanding of who men and women choose as their best and second-best friends. "Between the ages of 20 and 40 men and women behaved similarly. Both tended to have best friends of the opposite sex." Second-best friends, however, tended to be of the same sex. But as people enter middle age, patterns change dramatically. Women gradually prefer best friends of the same sex while both men and women show greater preferences for second-best friends of the opposite sex. 

What's the Big Idea?

Of particular import to the study was the finding that women of post-menopausal age prefer best friends of the same sex. The data support the so-called grandmother hypothesis which states that "when women hit the reproductive wall of the menopause they funnel their remaining energy into bolstering their children’s—especially their daughters’—odds of producing viable offspring." Focusing their attention on encouraging their children's successful reproduction likely comes at the expense of a more nurturing relationship with their husband, which perhaps helps to explain men's mid-life crises. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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