Sex Roles, Vol. 51, No. 3/4, August 2004 (
Gender and Age Differences in Brazilian Children’s
Friendship Nominations and Peer Sociometric Ratings
Maria Rosario T. de Guzman,
Lenna L. Ontai,
Silvia H. Koller,
and George P. Knight
The purpose of this study was to examine gender- and age-related patterns of friendship pref-
erences among Brazilian children. In particular, we examined: (a) children’s same-sex friend-
ship preference, and its greater intensity among older children; (b) higher exclusivity among
girls and higher inclusiveness among boys; and (c) generally higher exclusivity and inclusive-
ness among older children. Participants were 210 (110 boys, 100 girls) public school students
from Brazil who ranged in age from 3.0 to 10.5 years of age. Children were asked to nominate
their best friends and to rate how much they liked and disliked each of their other classmates.
Children generally nominated more of same-sex peers as best friends and gave more negative
ratings to their cross-sex peers. These same-sex preferences were more intense at the older
age groups. Girls and older children gave more negative peer ratings and nominated fewer
best friends than boys and younger children. However, the oldest age group gave signiﬁ-
cantly fewer negative peer ratings than did the younger groups—both in their same-sex and
overall negative peer ratings. Results are generally consistent with patterns found in prior
studies with children from the United States, but unique gender and age-related patterns also
KEY WORDS: friendships; gender; Brazilian children.
Empirical studies on children’s peer relation-
ships document a number of gender- and age-
related patterns in their friendships. One of the most
recorded patterns in peer relationships is the ten-
dency to prefer friends of the same sex (e.g., Belle,
1989; Feiring & Lewis, 1987; Pitcher & Schultz, 1983).
This phenomenon has been observed in children as
young as 33 months (Jacklin & Maccoby, 1978), and
appears to increase in intensity with age until mid-
dle childhood (Belle, 1989; Benenson, Apostoleris, &
Parnass, 1998; Maccoby, 1988, 1990). This same-sex
friendship preference is a robust phenomenon, ob-
University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Nebraska.
Present address: University of California, Davis, California.
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
Psychology, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
68588-0308; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
served across children’s interactions (e.g., Boyatzis,
Mallis, & Leon, 1999; La Freniere, Strayer, &
Gauthier, 1984), their nominations of friends (e.g.,
Graham, Cohen, Zbikowski, & Secrist, 1998),
and their sociometric ratings of peers (Lockheed,
In addition, early peer friendships have been
found to differ considerably between girls and boys
and across age groups. For example, girls’ friend-
ships and social networks tend to be smaller in size
(Belle, 1989; Benenson, 1990, 1993; Berndt & Hoyle,
1985; Lever, 1976; Waldrop & Halverson, 1975) but
more intimate than boys’ friendships and social net-
works (Belle, 1989; Furman & Buhrmester, 1985;
Lansford & Parker, 1999; Pitcher & Schultz, 1983).
Boys have been found to prefer to play outdoors, to
play longer, to play more competitive games, and to
have more age-heterogeneous groups than girls do
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation