The links between sibling
relationships and the
Marie St Clair Christman
Pennsylvania State University
Human Development and Family Studies
The links between change in sibling relationships and the changes
made other relationships within the family system was examined.
Participants in the studies consisted of two parents (mother and
father), two or more children between the ages of 8 to 17 from
middle class families. The data collected showed there are
three types of sibling relationships; distant, positive, and negative.
Family cohesion was negatively associated with externalizing
behavior on sibling relationships. The more intimacy and closeness
in the sibling dyad increased the child
parent relationship of each
sibling. The strongest relationships based on intimacy and
togetherness was of same sex sibling dyads. However, older siblings
had more control over the sibling dyad and have an effect on the
parent relationship. The results show parent
relationships vary based on warmth, birth order, and externalizing
Sibling relationships are not the first thing mentioned when
talking about family systems. Siblings are an important part of
the family as they will have the longest lasting relationship
within the family, growing and developing together. The
relationship between siblings is different from the rest of the
family i.e. a parent
child relationship. These relationship
types determine the quality of child
parent relationship as
well sibling relationship. But what does the sibling relationship
contribute to family cohesion and to other family dyads and
vice versa? Here is a look at how each relationship interacts
with each other and plays a role to uphold the family.
Methods & Measures
Longitudinal studies were conducted through
videotaped home interviews. The participants
consisted of working
middle class families with
both parents and two children between the ages
18. The family income ranged from $49,000
84,000. The method to collect participates were
through mailed surveys and local advertisement.
The families were interviewed individually.
Parents were questioned about their children’s
relationship and children were questioned about
the relationship with each parent.
Families displayed moderate levels of
cohesiveness. There were no significant differences
child hostility and externalizing behavior in
older siblings. Family cohesion was negatively
associated with parent child hostility. Fathers were
more hostile toward their children and were
associated with sibling externalizing behavior.
The age or status of the siblings was not a
significant predictor for externalizing behavior. The
male siblings had more externalizing problems than
girls. Families who were more cohesive had siblings
who had less externalizing problems.
Family influence on sibling
Overall the family dynamics between siblings and parents
depend on the type of relationship they have with each other.
The relationship also depends on externalizing behavior of the
children and the hostility of the parents. The less cohesion and
togetherness the family has the more problems they will face
with all dyads within the family. Positive relationships
between parent and child can increase the relationship
between siblings and also parents.
Family cohesion was related to individual problems due to parent
child hostility. If there is less family cohesion and more hostility from
the parent, the child receiving it would have more problems. However
the relationship between the siblings would not change if there was
less cohesion and hostility. The more cohesion between the members
in the family, the more cohesion there will be in the different dyads.
Older siblings determined the relationship between siblings and
at times with parents. Positive relations between parent child
relationships were a predictor for both siblings adjustment. Over time
when sibling relationships changed so did family dynamics. Siblings
tend to become more differentiated and externalizing behavior
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