The Hard Facts: Everyone Is Better Off With a Female Friend

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.


“When it comes to substance abuse, girls appear to have a positive effect on boys, but boys have a negative effect on girls. Girls who initiate friendships with boys in early adolescence are more likely to develop substance-abuse problems later in their teens… [But] boys who become friends with girls in early adolescence were not more likely to develop substance-use problems as older teens.” (“Teen Boys Benefit From Female Friends, But Revese Is Not True: Study,” The Globe and Mail 3/10/2011)

There seems to be a recurring theme in the research I’ve discovered since writing this blog: We all need women in our lives.

No matter the life phase—childhood, teens, adulthood—science is constantly proving that both males and females benefit more from being close to women.

In childhood, those with at least one sister are thought to be happier and more optimistic.

In adulthood, both men and women find relationships with women to be more intimate and enjoyable than those with men.

And now a new study has found that teenage boys benefit from having female friends, but the reverse is not true. “Boys reported receiving higher levels of emotional support from their other-sex friends, whereas girls receive more support from their same-sex friends,” said the author of the study.

Like I said, we all need women in our lives.

Of course this reminds me of an episode of Friends I watched yesterday, in which Ross discovers that women tell each other everything.


Here’s how Rachel explained it to Ross: “You’re missing out on so much, Ross. I mean, the bonding and the sharing, you know? And knowing that someone else is going through the same thing you are?”

And how Ross explained it to Chandler: “Women tell each other everything. Did you know that?…Everything! Like stuff you like, stuff she likes, technique, stamina, girth….”

I love that show.

I get why it’s so important for a man to have a woman he trusts that he can talk to and lean on for emotional support. That said, I’m surprised that having male friends would have such a negative impact. Isn’t the ability to get along with both halves of the population a valuable trait?

I could use this research opportunity to wax poetic about how females are better in relationships. But instead I’d like to go in the opposite direction. We all need women in our lives, but, despite the research, I’d argue having some guy-friends isn’t too bad either.

So you tell me: What are the benefits of  friendship with men that you can’t get from female relationships?


Filed under The Search

11 responses to “The Hard Facts: Everyone Is Better Off With a Female Friend

  1. katieleigh

    As always, I love the Friends reference.

    I think having guy friends helps me not to take myself (and every little thing) too seriously. Because while I love my girlfriends, let’s face it, we can over-analyze till the cows come home.

  2. Megan

    An almost guarantee of NO drama! And, a stress-free good time, which can be a nice break from life ‘stuff’ at times. :).

  3. Suzannah

    Uhmmm?….o I got it! Guys friends are great when you are moving!

  4. At the risk of offending someone, I find that my “best” male friends have a strong feminine side. In fact, it’s this feminine part of their personality that I’m drawn to! What a great mix! What great “wives” they would make!

  5. Ana

    Hmm. I wonder if the important part of the study you mentioned is the age…i.e. young teenage girls who hang out with boys . First of all, are the boys actually just “friends” or are they “boyfriends”? Why is the girl NOT connecting with her female peers—is she too focused on being attractive to the opposite sex, thus alienating other girls?
    I wonder if you did this study in 20/30 year olds—the answers would probably be more neutral.

  6. Fascinating! In general I would rather spend time with male friends because — however stereotypical it is — when my female friends gather the focus of conversation tends to be on babies, houses, knitting, and other enjoyable aspects of life to which I can’t relate. Spending time with male friends sparks topics like books, movies, and travel. It is, quite frankly, often more FUN.

    That being said, the close female friends I do have are utterly irreplaceable for all the reasons mentioned in this post. I’ll take BOTH, thank you!

  7. My guy friends are a guaranteed good time (usually with drinking involved). If there’s drama, it’s the stuff that instantly goes away in the morning – it’s like they don’t hold grudges and that fascinates me. Girls talk everything to death, so when I want a break from gossip and drama, my guy friends are perfect. BUT because they don’t talk to each other about their own drama and feelings, I’m the one who gets cornered with it all. At least they buy my drinks 🙂

  8. Anonymous

    I agree with Ana – maybe the point of the quote was “girls who initiate friendships” – in the sense that girls who “chase” boys (actively pursue friendships with teenage boys) may be doing so because they feel needy or insecure, or they just crave male attention, which would tend to lead them to follow the boys no matter what poor choices the boys make?

    Many of my best friends have been guys, too, and the biggest reason is because they don’t over-analyze. However, they do have their own drama. And I know a couple who gossip more than my female friends!! 🙂

  9. caz

    hmm this is interesting… more-so because the comments are too.

    As a mid-20’s girl, I find my female friendships are the most fulfilling in my life (although I still do love hanging out with the boys). However, as a teen I was definitely “one of the boys” and enjoyed those friendships. Unlike the above commenters though I wasn’t “chasing” them. In fact, they were all close friends who were dating my friends. I just had a much lower tolerance for the high-school-girl drama and had an adventurous streak a mile wide. My friendship with boys definitely lead to some opportunities/decisions for mischief I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

    I definitely value my friendships with both sexes and consider both healthy, but in the traditional sense of the article, my friendships with boys probably wouldn’t be considered so…

  10. I think this is very interesting.

    Growing up with four brothers, one of them being my twin, and a sister who was more of a tomboy than anything else, led to me being the girly-girl in the family and led to me having many male friendships. And I agree that my male friendships have led me to not take myself so seriously – to try and live life more in the moment and not worry about things so much. And that is definitely something I need. It also helps that a lot of my guy friends are into hockey – and that’s not the case with my female friends.

    Like others have said, not to demean or lessen my female relationships because I wouldn’t survive without them. But my male friendships are also very important to me and make my life easier.

  11. Got here from Big Little Wolf blog. Agree, that women tend to be better for deep discussion than men. However, my best buddy is a man, and we’ve discussed everything/anything while jogging together for more than thirty years. Happens that he’s a psychiatrist, but maybe that’s why I’ve learned to consider and then discard much of his advice. We usually talk politics and heavy stuff, but we help one another if needed. When I first met my wife-to-be (for a night hike in woods in the rain), she was the only woman I had ever met who did not have a female confidant. I checked this out carefully, and she’s good. We’re both unusual in some ways and a great match. Incidentally, most everything I have learned about men, I have learned from intimate discussions with women. Only way to get the truth (taking into account a few exaggerations thrown in).

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