Friends with benefits or "friends" with deficits? The meaning and contexts of uncommitted sexual relationships among Mexican American and European American adolescents

Lela Williams, Heidi L. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using focus groups, this study sought to understand and compare how Mexican American (n=41, M=16.0years old, SD=.96) and European American (n=34, M=16.1years old, SD=.64) youths conceptualize and experience "friends with benefits" relationships (FWBRs). Contrary to the implied nature of friendship, partners did not show caring and viewed FWBRs as a means to meet sexual needs. The "benefits" of this arrangement included guilt-free pleasure, little responsibility, the freedom to date others, or to remain available for a more desirable partner. The inherent deficits of FWBRs, on the other hand, included the potential pitfall of getting emotionally attached. Despite the recognized deficits, European American and Mexican American girls both desired and participated in FWBRs. However, Mexican American girls described more committed "going-out" relationships as ideal, which left them vulnerable to mismatched expectations and emotional upset in FWBRs. Findings outline the socio-emotional contexts of adolescent involvement in FWBRs, as well as underscore the potential for conflicting desires. Recommendations for healthy relationship and sexual health programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1110-1117
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume35
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Education
  • Gender
  • Mexican American
  • Qualitative
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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