Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fostering Healthy Sibling Relationships

In the United States, 80% of children grow up with at least one sibling. For many people, sibling relationships are the relationships in life that last the longest. Conflict can make up a big portion of a sibling relationship, but they can also be the closest relationship within a family. What causes some to be positive and others negative? How can we foster good relationships between siblings? Alison Pike, Tina Kretschmer, and Judith F. Dunn wrote an article, based on their research in The Brother - Sister Study, about how parents can help achieve harmony within the home.


Because siblings spend a lot of time together, they know one another very well. Their interactions, whether positive or negative, impact their development. A study was done on sibling relationships to find what factors impact the relationship the most. It was found that family structure, age spacing, gender sibling pairs, socioeconomic status, and household crowding were insignificant in enhancing the relationship. What was significant was an individual child's characteristics and temperament as well as the family environment.


Characteristics and Temperament

Temperament can be a big factor in whether siblings get along or not. In this study, four aspects of temperament were measured: emotionality (anger, fear, upset), activity, sociability, and shyness. The analysis showed that children who are more active and emotionally intense tend to be more conflict-prone with their siblings. They tend to have more negative interactions with them than positive ones. The only other significant finding was that when an older sibling is more social, the relationship they have with their younger siblings tends to be more positive.

Family Environment

In order to analyze family environment, four contextual factors were measured: household organization, marital satisfaction, socioeconomic status, and household crowding. Household organization (regular routines, less background noise, etc.) was the most significant factor that influenced a sibling relationship. This suggests that an organized household creates less stress within a home, which in turn decreases the amount of conflict between siblings.

Marital Satisfaction

The only other factor which showed significance in this study was marital satisfaction. When the marriage relationship is high quality, it influences other relationships within the family. According to the authors, this suggests that children learn about positive relationships from their parents because "happily married parents are better able to respond in a manner conducive to more amicable relations between their children". The relationship that parents have with their children also has an influence on how well siblings get along.


In the end, there is no specific answer as to why some siblings engage in more conflict than others. However, we do know that parents have the ability to influence sibling relationships for the better by making their homes places of organization, and seeking to improve spousal relationships.

To read the full article click here: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-22/edition-6/siblings-friends-or-foes





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