In our interviews, adolescents spoke at length about the ways in which they felt close to their best friends. Interestingly, when asked why they felt close to their best friends (or how their best friend was different from their other friends), commonly expressed sentiments included claims that they could trust their best friends with their secrets and their money. In addition, adolescents voiced feelings that they could trust closest friends to protect them from harm and that they would "be there" when needed. Although trust was consistently the foundation of closeness in friendships, the ways in which the adolescents in our studies trusted their friends varied across gender and occasionally ethnicity. Finally, adolescents conveyed feelings of closeness to their best friends due to the fact that their family knew their friends and their friends'families (and vice versa). Thus, while the literature typically characterizes adolescent friendship closeness by the extent to which each partner in the friendship shares intimate details of their lives (Savin-Williams & Berndt, 1990), the adolescents in our studies revealed that the experience of closeness (and trust) stems from a much broader array of experiences.

Sharing Secrets

As predicted from the theoretical and research literature, the vast majority of adolescents spoke with great passion and conviction about their best friend(s) with whom they trusted to share "everything." When Amanda was asked what she liked about her best friend, she replied, "She keeps everything a secret, whatever I tell her." Maria responded similarly saying, "Like the back of their hands I can talk to her about anything, like if I call her, I'm hysterically crying or something just happened or whatever, . . . and maybe she'll be doing something, she'll stop doing that to come and talk to me and to help me." Brian stated about his best friends, "I tell them anything about me and I know they won't tell anybody else unless I tell them to."

A key part of this sharing process appeared to be mutuality. When asked to define a best friend, Justin responded, "He could just tell me anything and I could tell him anything. Like I always know everything about him____We always chill, like we don't hide secrets from each other." In responding to a question probing what he liked about his friend, Justin replied, "If I have a problem, I can go tell him. If he has a problem, he can go tell me." Similarly, Steven stated about his best friends, "We share secrets that we don't talk about it in the open." When asked to explain why he felt close to his friends, he stated, "If I'm having problems at home, they'll like counsel me, I just trust them with anything, like deep secrets, anything." When Jerome, a 16-year-old West Indian boy was asked to describe his best friend, he said,

He's like a brother, I could tell him anything, anything. If I ask him to keep it a secret, he will keep it a secret. If he tells me something, he tells me not to tell nobody. I keep it a secret. If I need him, I know he's going to be there . . . When I talk about problems . . . he'll tell me or give me ideas or things to do.

Expressing "deep depth secrets" and "private stuff" was a central part of the friendships of the boys and girls in our studies.

Sharing Money

In addition to the sharing of secrets, sharing money was another way in which adolescents, especially boys, expressed closeness with each other in their friendships. Like a mantra, most of the boys and some of the girls stated, in response to a question of how/why they felt close to their friends, that sharing secrets and money made them feel close to their best friends. To illustrate, when Randall was asked how he felt close to his friends, he replied because he can "trust them completely." When asked to explain how he trusted his friends, he responded, "I trust them to hold my money, and I trust them to, if I lend them money they'll pay me back." In answering the same set of questions, Nathan replied, "I could leave any amount of money with him. He gave me money, I give him money. If I need something, he gives it to me, I give it to him [if he needs something]____" In a few instances, sharing of money was also reported by girls, as was the case with Nicole. When asked to describe her best friend, Nicole stated that she is a friend she can "really trust." When asked about a recent time that she trusted her best friend, Nicole replied, "We went shopping and I put money in her pocket, but I forgot about how much I had given her. And then she gave me the right amount back____" In addition to knowing that friends would pay them back, the adolescents also emphasized their willingness to loan their friends money. Sharing, borrowing, and loaning money were distinct components of feelings of closeness in friendships.

Protection From Harm

Among the Black and Latino boys, closeness was also experienced in the knowledge that one's friend would protect them from harm. Although some of the girls and the Asian American boys also voiced this theme, it was especially apparent among Black and Latino boys who repeatedly emphasized the importance of knowing that their closest friends would protect them in fights and that they would, in turn, reciprocate the protection. For example, when Raphael was asked by an interviewer, "What kinds of things could you trust with your [closest] friends?" he replied, "Let's just say I had a big fight, I got beat up, I had like five guys against me, they'll come and they'll help me out." Similarly, Akil responded to the same question, "You get into a fight with somebody else; [my best friend] will tell me to calm down, child . . . like when someone jumps me, he will help me." Armondo also discussed how the bonds between he and his friends were enhanced by the protection of each other in fights. He described a time when he and his three male friends were confronted by another group of boys who wanted to fight, explaining to the interviewer how it was up to him to protect his friends, "And

I'm behind my friend____if something happened to him where it was like he couldn't react fast enough and I was behind him, it would have been up to me to . . . protect him and help him out." Armondo further explained that had he not protected his friend, consequent exclusion by his friends would have ensued, "If something had happened and I didn't do anything, I'm just standing like a big dummy, you know, I mean, none of them would ever want to hang out with me again, and it would be the same with any of them. So, it's a trust thing." As a result of this incident, Armondo stated that he and his friends felt closer to each other knowing each would protect the other if necessary.

Like the theme of shared secrets and shared money, the theme of protection was often evident in the adolescents' responses regarding how they trusted their friends rather than how they felt close to their friends. However, the interviewer's questions regarding the experience of trust was almost always in response to adolescents claiming that they felt close to their friends because they could trust them.

These stories of protection from harm were striking in the boys' willingness to express feelings of vulnerability. Although boys voiced beliefs that they and their best friends protected each other, they did not emphasize, as one might expect based on images of "hypermasculinity" (Stevenson, 2004), the protection of their friends. Rather, the boys' emphasis was more on how their friends would protect them if needed. African American and Latino boys, in particular, openly referred to and seemed proud of such interdependency with their closet male friends.

The Family-Friend Connection

Among the Black and Latino adolescents, in general, closeness also appeared to be experienced as a result of their families knowing each other. Anthony's aunt (who is his primary caretaker) used to baby sit Pedro who is his best friend. His other best friend's mom is the best friend of his aunt. These connections, he said, were one of the primary reasons why he trusted his friends to keep his secrets. The mother of Minda's best friend is the best friend of her mother. Minda claimed that the fact that she and her mother have best friends from the same family made her feel closer not only to her mother but also to her best friend. Michael made similar claims about his best friend, saying, "Since we were real small I have known his whole family, he knows everybody in my house, we just walk over to his crib, open his fridge without asking or something, that's how long we've know each other." Similarly, Armando responded when asked what makes him close to his best friend, "Um basically 'cause he knows my family. If you know somebody's parents, then you know how far the trust can be stretched." Bringing their friends into the fold of their families and becoming part of their friends' family allowed the adolescents to trust and feel close to their friends.

Change Over Time in Experiences of Closeness

Sharing secrets, sharing money, protection from harm, and having family/friend connections comprised the primary ways in which adolescents trusted and consequently felt close to their friends. For the most part, these themes of closeness did not vary over time. The content of these themes, however, shifted over time. For example, although the secrets that were shared during the first year of the study included revealing a crush on a girl or boy or a score on a test from class, by the fourth year "shared secrets" focused more on struggles in romantic relationships or family conflicts. Similarly, although protection from harm involved protection in physical fights during the first few years of the study, by the latter years it entailed protecting each other from emotional (e.g., being betrayed) as well as physical harm. The only exception to this pattern of stability in the themes of closeness was the experience of shared money which seemed less evident in the interviews during the latter years of the study than in the earlier years. This shift may be due to the fact that the adolescents by this time were working and thus borrowing money was, perhaps, less necessary.

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