'A boy would be friends with boys... and a girl... with girls' : gender norms in early adolescent friendships in Egypt and Belgium

Authors & affiliation

Ghada Al-Attar, Sara De Meyer, Omaima El-Gibaly, Kristien Michielsen, Lydia H Animosa, Kristin Mmari


Purpose: A gender analysis was conducted to illuminate the key elements of friendships highlighted by early adolescent girls and boys in two sites for the purpose of better understanding the impact of gender norms on adolescent friendships in different contexts. Methods: Narrative interviews with early adolescents were conducted in two sites: Assiut, Egypt (n = 37) and Ghent, Belgium (n = 30). The interviews were recorded, transcribed, translated into English, and coded using Atlas.ti for analysis. Results: In both Assiut and Ghent, early adolescents reported some similarities in defining key characteristics of their same-sex friends as well as in the activities they share. However, differences were noticed among boys and girls within each site. In addition, the scope of shared activity was broader in Ghent than in Assiut. In both sites, few opposite-sex friendships were reported. Gender norms influenced choice of friends as well as the type and place of shared activities. Conclusions: Building on knowledge that adolescent friendships guide and reinforce attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that impact immediate and long-term health, our findings indicate that gender norms inform early adolescent friendships, which may impact healthy development.

Publication date:


Staff members:

Sara De Meyer
Kristien Michielsen

Link to publication

Open link


1-s2.0-S1054139X17301544-main.pdf (open)

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