Are You a Tight-Knitter, Compartmentalizer, or a Sampler?

Making friends as an adult can be hard. But, by understanding what type of friendship style you have, it might just become a little easier.

Dartmouth sociology professor Janice McCabe conducted a study on 67 college students about their friendship social structures, and found that most of her subjects fit into three friendship categories: tight-knitters, compartmentalizers, and samplers.

But, anyone, college age or above, who reads her finding "Friends with Academic Benefits" published in the journal Context, is going to feel compelled to put themselves into one of her three types of friend groups.


According to McCabe, tight-knitters "have one densely woven friendship group in which nearly all their friends are friends with one another." She describes the group's network as resembling a ball of yarn.

Image via Janice McCabe/Contexts
Image via Janice McCabe/Contexts

A lot of tight knit groups describe themselves as family more than friends. They provide support for each other, but they also have the ability to pull each other down.

In McCabe's study, tight-knitters performed well—or not—academically as a group.

"All behaviors—negative and positive—were quite contagious within tight-knit networks," she explains. "Consequently, all tight-knitters who described their friends as providing academic support and motivation graduated; only half of the tight-knitters who felt they lacked this support graduated."


If you have multiple friend groups that don't intersect, you are a compartmentalizer.

McCabe describes compartmentalized networks as resembling a bow tie.

Image via Janice McCabe/Contexts
Image via Janice McCabe/Contexts

Compartmentalizers usually have two to four friend groups. Maybe you have one group of people you go out with, one group you get dinner with every week, a group that is really good to go to the movies with, and a group that gets together to co-work. These groups are all separate and provide balance.


McCabe says a samplers network resembles a daisy in that there is one person in the middle and individual friendships that are not connected sprouting out from there like a petal.

Image via Janice McCabe/Contexts
Image via Janice McCabe/Contexts

Samplers are generally very independent. They have many one-on-one friendships rather than a group of friends and most of the people in their network don't know each other.

McCabe checked in with the students she studied after they had graduated and found that for the most part, their friendship network type remained the same.

In the end she says none of the three groups are better than the others.

In an interview with The Boston Globeshe said "They all come with different types of challenges and benefits."

So, which are you?