First Advisor

Ellen Skinner

Term of Graduation

Spring 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science: Psychology


Systems Science: Psychology




Interpersonal relations in adolescence, Friendship in adolescence, Love in adolescence, Teenage girls, Adolescent psychology



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xii, 326 pages)


Research suggests that, for adolescent females, the initiation of romantic relationships is a normative developmental task and a task associated with potential difficulties, including physical aggression. Most previous research treats progress in this task as a function of individual characteristics. This study assumes that when girls are negotiating romantic relationships, they have existing intimate friendships with other females, and these friendships are important to how this task is negotiated.

Females who recently graduated from high school provided retrospective and current information on the amount of leisure time spent with members of their social networks, qualities of relationships in later adolescence, and characteristics of individuals and peer relationships in ninth grade.

This study examined how peer relationships are reorganized during high school and whether girls tradeoff time with friends for time with partners. Growth curves of involvement with friends and partners were estimated. In general, the amount of time spent with best female friends started high and remained relatively constant during high school, while time with romantic partners started low and increased substantially. Girls did trade time with best friends for time with romantic partners, but no cross-over in normative trajectories was found.

Nevertheless, there was variation in experiences. About a quarter of adolescents spent similar amounts of time with friends and partners throughout high school; and another quarter maintained time with friends, but had little involvement with partners. The remaining females showed some evidence of reorganization: They increased the amount of time with partners and reduced time with best friends.

Social and individual characteristics predicted patterns of involvement with peers. Additionally, these patterns predicted the quality of subsequent relationships with friends and partners. Adolescents who had steeper trajectories of involvement in romantic relationships reported higher positive qualities and more physical aggression in current romantic relationships, and more exposure to jealousy and physical aggression in past relationships.

Results support the notion that adding romantic relationships during adolescence is a complex task that female adolescents negotiate in different ways. Maintaining friendships with other girls may be an important part of that task, and one whose study should be included in future research.


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