Attachment theory holds that parental relationships have lifelong effects on offspring social lives. The tend-and-befriend hypothesis posits that female friendships among humans evolved as part of a primate-wide coping mechanism to mediate stress by relying on social support. Here we bridge developmental and evolutionary frameworks to examine adolescent girls’ perception of their reliance on female friendship for social support, how perceptions of parental relationships affect peer relationships, and the extent to which parent and peer relationships buffer depressive symptoms. We predict perceived maternal relationship quality will be positively associated with close female friendships, and maternal relationships, paternal relationships, and female friendship will buffer depressive symptoms. Participants were adolescent girls from a summer science camp (N = 95). Participants filled out demographic information, social network surveys, the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale, and the Center for Epidemiology Depression Scale. Data was analyzed with Pearson's correlations, t tests, and path analysis. Adolescent girls with few female friends, compared with girls who had more than two very close female friends, experienced more depressive symptoms (t = 3.382, p =.001, D = 0.784). Adolescent girls with few female friends experienced more depressive symptoms compared to girls with two or more very close female friends (t = 3.382, p =.001, D = 0.784). Stronger maternal and paternal relationships were associated with having more female friends (maternal: t = −3.213, p =.003, D = 0.837; paternal: t = −2.432; p =.017). In the path analysis model, only maternal relationship quality significantly predicted female friendship category (β =.33, CR = 2.770, p <.006). Furthermore, participants with two or more very close female friends and higher paternal relationship quality had significantly fewer depressive symptoms (friends; β = −.19, CR = −2.112, p =.035; paternal: β = −.33, CR = −3.220, p <.001), and older participants had more depressive symptoms (β =.17, CR = −1.931, p =.036). These results provide additional support for the tend-and-befriend hypothesis, suggesting that maternal tending sets the stage for close female friendships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23050
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • adolescence
  • development
  • friendship
  • life history
  • social relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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