Sex differences and interpersonal relationships: A cross-sectional sample in the U.S. and India

D. K. Norman, J. M. Murphy, C. Gilligan, J. Vasudev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study introduces a methodology for exploring sex differences and life span patterns in a small sample for the purpose of generating hypotheses concerning the frequency and kinds of relationships people identify as important. Sixty-two participants from the United States and India, ranging in age from nineteen to seventy-five were interviewed as part of a study on ego and moral development. These open-ended, semistructured interviews yielded information on relationships that was subsequently coded for analysis. Sex differences were found in the number of relationships mentioned with females mentioning a higher number of relationships than males. Life span patterns regarding the numbers of relationships mentioned were different for men and women between ages nineteen to thirty-one, with women naming more relationships. At age thirty-five there was a convergence in the number of relationships metnioned by both sexes. This age also was the low point in the number of relationships mentioned by both sexes, with later life ages (50-75) the high point for both. The most marked differences in the kinds of relationships mentioned occurred between the two cultures. The U.S. participants mentioned parents and immediate family more often, while the Indian participants mentioned extended and collateral kin more often. These findings support the literature suggesting that there are developmental sex differences regarding the salience of interpersonal relationships. In addition, several age related patterns appear concerning frequency and types of relationships considered important.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-306
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Aging and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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