Meanings for closeness and intimacy in friendship

Malcolm R. Parks, Kory Floyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Closeness and intimacy are fundamental, but poorly defined, concepts in the study of personal relationships. We sought to contribute to a more precise understanding of closeness and intimacy by first examining participants' meanings for closeness in friendships, and then by comparing meanings for closeness with participants' meanings for intimacy. In a self-report survey 270 college students were asked what made their same-sex and cross-sex friendships close and how closeness was expressed. Thirteen different meanings for closeness were derived. Individuals assigned an average of three meanings for closeness, with the most common being self-disclosure, support, shared interests and explicit expression of the value of the relationship. Native meanings for closeness differed relatively little across sexes and relational types. Respondents envisioned three possible relationships between closeness and intimacy. Just under half the respondents appeared to view them as equivalent terms, while the remaining respondents emphasized either qualitative or quantitative differences. The chief qualitative difference was that intimacy implied a romantic or sexual dimension to about one quarter of the respondents. Quantitative differences generally took the form of believing that an intimate relationship was a more intense form of a close relationship. Closeness appeared to be a richer, more inclusive term than intimacy. Respondents generated more meanings for it and thought of a greater variety of relationships as close. There were fewer sex differences in meanings for closeness than in meanings for intimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-107
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Closeness
  • Friendship
  • Intimacy
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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