Ethnicity and emotional support in same-sex friendship: A comparison of Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Euro-Americans

Wendy Samter, Bryant University
Bryan B. Whaley
Steven T. Mortenson
Brant R. Burleson, Purdue University

Document Type Article

Published in Personal Relationships, volume 4 issue 4, 1997. Bryant users may access this article here.


Emotional support is a central feature around which white, middle-class adults organizc their same-sex friendships. The purpose of this study was to examine whether emotional support is accorded the same significance in the friendships of Asian- and African-Americans. Participants included 199 students (60 Euro-American men and women, 80 Asian-American men and womeh and 59 African-American men and women) attending either a state or private university in California. Each participant completed three different questionnaires designed to assess perceptions of (a) the importance of comforting skill in same-sex friendship; (b) the significance of emotion-focused versus problem-focused goals in situations requiring emotional support; and (c) the sensitivity and effectiveness of various comforting strategies. Several significant differences due to ethnicity were found in participants’ perceptions of emotional support and its attendant behaviors. These and related findings are discussed in terms of their implifations for the conduct of same-sex friendship among individuals from different ethnic backgrounds.