Intimate friendships among internationally mobile adolescents

Melisa Marie Secola, Marquette University


As a result of global economic and social changes, the number of internationally mobile families has steadily grown. In recent years, the increased number of internationally mobile youth has prompted research on the effects of prolonged overseas experiences on various aspects of their lives. Previous studies of the psychosocial characteristics of internationally mobile youth suggested that these individuals experience social adjustment difficulties upon reentry to their country of origin. Less intimate peer relationships were assumed to be an unavoidable aspect of international life. The issue of whether these social adjustment problems were present before reentry has not been addressed previously. This study explored the relationship between intimate friendship and international mobility among internationally mobile (IM) adolescents and their peers in the United States who have never lived abroad. Participants included 91 IM U.S. students, 65 non-IM U.S. students, and 134 IM non-U.S. high school students. The participants attended two private coeducational college preparation high schools: an American international school in Thailand, and a school in the midwestern United States. Data on the levels of intimacy in best-friend relationships was gathered using the Sharabany Intimate Friendship Scale. An intimate friend was defined as an individual's best or closest friend of either gender. Two hypotheses were tested to explore differences in intimate friendship associated with international mobility and citizenship. Secondary analyses were performed to examine the influence of age and gender on the level of intimacy in best-friend relationships. Results indicate that IM adolescents have a higher level of intimacy in best-friend relationships than adolescents who have never been abroad. Non-IM U.S. adolescents have more stable and longer term friendships. IM U.S. citizens have a higher level of intimacy in best-friend relationships than IM non-U.S. citizens. Female students at both schools show higher levels of intimacy in their best-friend relationships than males. Further research with other U.S. overseas schools is recommended to confirm these findings.

Recommended Citation

Secola, Melisa Marie, "Intimate friendships among internationally mobile adolescents" (1993). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9411505.