||Twenty adult female rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were observed over a three-year period. They lived in a mixed captive group with kinship relations known for three generations. The study's aim was to test Seyfarth's [J. theor. Biol. 65: 671-698, 1977] model of rank-related grooming and to investigate two other possible determinants of social bonding, i.e. relative age and the group's stratification into two social classes. Data on affiliation, coalitions, and social competition were collected by means of both focal observation and instantaneous time sampling. Whereas certain elements of the existing model were confirmed, its explanatory principles were not. Social competition did not result in more contact among close-ranking females (the opposite effect was found), and the relation between affiliative behavior and coalitions was more complex than predicted. Based on multivariate analyses and a comparison of theoretical models, we propose a simpler, more encompassing principle underlying interfemale attraction. According to this 'similarity principle', rhesus females establish bonds with females whom they most resemble. The similarity may concern genetical and social background, age, hierarchical position and social class. Effects of these four factors were independently demonstrated. The most successful model assumed that similarity factors influence female bonding in a cumulative fashion.