Purdue University Graduate School
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Adult Communicative Play in Close Friendships

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posted on 2018-12-19, 20:28 authored by Douglas E. PruimDouglas E. Pruim
Adult communicative play is a pervasive interpersonal phenomenon and a defining element of most close friendships. With a few notable exceptions (e.g., Aune & Wong 2002; Aune & Wong, 2012; Baxter, 1992), adult communicative play is largely understudied within the field of interpersonal communication. A primary factor in satisfaction with friends is fulfillment of relational needs, specifically the needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence, as described by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985). In this project, I report two studies exploring the impact of play within close friendships. Study 1 examined the relationships between and among adult communicative play, interpersonal needs, and relationship satisfaction in close, same-sex, platonic friends. The results indicated support for all hypotheses, including support for the theoretical path model. In this path model, a) the effect of adult communicative play on relationship satisfaction is mediated by interpersonal need satisfaction and b) the effect of playfulness on satisfaction is fully mediated by play. Study 2 sought, first, to replicate the findings of Study 1 and, second, to extend Study 1 by exploring whether playfulness and play scores of one friend are associated with his or her partner’s satisfaction, as well as whether playfulness scores are associated with a partner’s score on play. Because of poor model fit in Study 2, the results of Study 1 could not be replicated; instead, post hoc alternative models were explored. Furthermore, path analysis results of an actor-partner interdependence model for indistinguishable pairs revealed that one partner’s playfulness is associated with the other’s reporting of play and one partner’s play is associated with the other’s relationship satisfaction. Implications, limitations, and future recommendations are then discussed.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Communication

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Bart Collins

Additional Committee Member 2

Victor Raskin

Additional Committee Member 3

Torsten Reimer

Additional Committee Member 4

Steven R. Wilson

Additional Committee Member 5

Nathan Miczo

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