Other Free Encyclopedias » Marriage and Family Encyclopedia » Relatives & Extended Family » Sibling Relationships - Sibling Similarities And Differences, Siblings In Non-western Cultures, Sibling Relationships Across The Life Span

Sibling Relationships - Sibling Relationships Across The Life Span

gender family development siblings children age adult

In the United States, sibling relationships are dynamic and vary depending on the stage in the life cycle; they are no less important during old age than when children are toddlers or adolescents. However, what one expects from and what one gives to a sibling in old age is different from expectations and exchanges at earlier ages.

Research on infant and preschool siblings. There is growing recognition that siblings play potentially important roles in socializing each other's social, emotional, and cognitive development. One example of the effects of this socialization role is the finding that older siblings are not as accommodating to young children as adults are and thus encourage the development of pragmatic skills in their younger siblings. In other words, older siblings will make younger children perform such tasks as tying their own shoes and getting their own bowl of ice cream.

Psychologists studying the interaction patterns of preschool children and their infant siblings report that the arrival of a newborn in the family has immediate consequences for older siblings' adjustment and behavior. Bed-wetting, withdrawal, aggressiveness, dependency, and anxiety are among the most problematic behaviors reported in these studies (Dunn 1995). Positive roles for older siblings include the opportunity to learn caretaking skills and serving as models for appropriate social and cultural behaviors. Numerous studies find that young siblings benefit from observing and imitating their older brothers and sisters. This happens because older siblings "engage in activities during interaction that are within the scope of actions that the younger child is capable of reproducing immediately or slightly after observation" (Zukow 1989, p. 85).

Sometime between their third and fourth year, older siblings begin to take a more active interest in younger siblings, and brothers and sisters become both more effective companions and antagonists at this age. Older siblings demonstrate a clear understanding of how to provoke and annoy a younger child as early as age two. Countering this negative tendency is an increasing interest in alleviating the distress of others during the second year. There is some evidence that the way mothers talk to an older sibling about a newborn child is associated with the quality of the behavior between the children over time (Dunn 1995). Children become increasingly more involved with their older siblings during the preschool years.

Sibling relationships in middle childhood. American children become more egalitarian during the middle childhood years. When fifth- and sixth-grade children were asked about the relationship with their siblings, the quality noted most was companionship. This was followed by antagonism, admiration of sibling, and quarreling (Furman et al. 1989). These positive and negative qualities of the relationship were independent of one another, illustrating the ambivalence and complexity of sibling interaction. Younger siblings report feeling more affection, closeness, and respect for older siblings than the reverse.

Brothers and sisters tend to influence each other's gender role development. Boys with sisters score higher on expressiveness than boys with brothers, and girls with brothers score higher on competitiveness and assertiveness (Sulloway 1996). Boys with only brothers are reported as being more violent than boys with sisters (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz 1980).

A study of the relation between parental behaviors and sibling behaviors found that negative Relationships between sisters are reported to be closer than those between brothers and those between a brother and a sister. The two girls pictured are sisters, living in Cambodia. DAN LAMONT/CORBIS parental care (hostile/detached behavior) was associated with sibling quarreling/antagonism among children in middle childhood. Differential treatment by mothers is associated with more conflicted and hostile sibling relationships (Boer, Goedhart, and Treffers 1992).

Adult sibling relationships. A large majority (about 80%) of adult Americans have at least one living brother or sister (Connidis and Campbell 1995). Because of their shared past, and because they are typically close in age, siblings are potential sources of financial, physical, emotional, and psychological support and assistance in old age. Some of the topics related to adult siblings that have been investigated include the frequency of contact, feelings of solidarity and closeness, use of siblings as confidants, and types of support and assistance exchanged.

Those who study adult sibling relationships report four consistent findings. First, sibling contact and closeness is greater between sisters than in brother-brother or brother-sister combinations. Overall, women are more likely to be the ones to initiate and maintain kin ties, including those with siblings. Second, geographic proximity is a key factor in predicting the extent of adult sibling interaction. When siblings live close to one another they maintain contact, exchange goods and services, and support one another to a greater degree than when they live apart. Third, there is a curvilinear relationship between age and feelings of closeness, contact, and meaningfulness of the sibling tie. Relations are close during early and middle childhood, they decrease slightly during adolescence and middle age, and increase as individuals near the end of the life cycle. Almost two-thirds of adults report that they are close to their grown-up siblings and 78 percent feel they get along well with them (Cicirelli 1991). Fourth, sibling ties appear to be more salient for the unmarried and childless than for those who are currently married and those with children (Campbell, Connidis, and Davies 1999; White 2001).

In the process of studying sibling relationships, when methodological analyses are complex and include or control for the large variety of factors that influence adult sibling interaction (marital status, presence and number of children, number of siblings, income and educational status, age, presence of living parents, and race/ethnicity), the complexity of sibling interaction becomes evident. For example, one longitudinal study reported that giving and receiving help and assistance increasingly declined between the ages of twenty and seventy, then took an upturn—for siblings living close to one another. No upturn was evident for those who lived twenty-six miles away or further. When siblings lived close by, help was given more often by those with higher education; when there were more siblings in the family, help was more often given by sisters; and help was less likely to be given when parents were still alive (White 2001).

One similarity between the adult siblings in the United States and Taiwanese siblings discussed earlier is a reported closeness between siblings who provide care for elderly parents. When there is an emotionally close sibling network, the likelihood is much higher that all siblings will share in the support and care (Matthews 1987).

Some life experiences affect sibling closeness, improve relations, or increase the frequency of contact among adult siblings. Ingrid Connidis (1992) found that sibling ties were heightened when divorce, widowhood, or health problems occurred. However, when siblings married or had children, the relationship did not change. Lynn White (2001), on the other hand, found that getting married and having children decreased sibling contact and exchange among siblings.

Gary Lee and Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman (1980) examined whether sibling relations increased the morale of elderly persons. They found that siblings acted as companions, provided emotional support, shared reminiscences, and validated each other's sense of self, but they did not influence each others' degree of life satisfaction, disappointment, or pleasure in life. This finding underlies the more common "benign" exchanges that occur among elderly siblings. Although they may hold high regard for one another, sociability usually consists of telephone calls and visits to one anothers' homes: just sitting around talking and discussing matters of mutual interest—ordinary as opposed to exciting conversations (Scott and Roberto 1981; Allan 1977). Reminiscences are particularly valued because siblings were witnesses to the changes that took place during an individual's life (Connidis 1992). In a now-classic study, Bert Adams (1968) suggested that such mundane contacts are sufficient to meet the general obligation adult siblings have to maintain the relationship.


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almost 3 years ago

Who is the author of this article for citing purposes?

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about 2 years ago

DO Some work IUCY... you can look up each ref!!!!! damn it... everything is not already done for you

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over 6 years ago

I am just curious to know how common it is for adult siblings in a large family to hate another sibling, and to abuse and control the life of that sibling in a bad kind of way. (Relational, financial, educational, etc.)

How common is it to be the runt of the litter and be picked on to the extent that even after you are grown, your siblings rip you out of all your & your children's possessions & your inheritance from your parents & just basically, take over and ruin your whole life...for whatever excuses that they have for doing it.

I want to know...

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over 1 year ago

I LOVE MY THAMBI .....

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about 3 years ago

Hi I am the youngest of 2 siblings my brother and I are 1 year 4months apart, yet he feels he has some sort of control over me. He has a lot of pride and a mentality that I have yet to describe. I lived with him for about 2months and he decided to move back home yet I was the last to find out all this where is the respect am I suppose to just go with the flow. we had gotten into a fist fight recently which turned out pretty bad and I still have anger within me, wehn I look at him all I see is a person I have no respect for him anymore, he has manipulated the family and lied to make it seem like he is the right one yet after proof of his lack of respect to me, he has no excuse. He thinks by appologising it will all be over??...and when it happens again I must just take the apology?...my family has called up a meeting to interven and I'd like to share my view on the situation in a fair manner can anyone help me with some insight? Thanks

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over 5 years ago

How much financial support do siblings give to one another? I am eldest daughter, 2nd born of 7 kids (5 brothers). The youngest, my only sister was 9th in her high school class so more achievement oriented then me at 150th in 300. I took care of her from 6 mths old - me 15 yrs old. Our mom, schizophrenic since I was 5, was in an mental instituition for 4 years after bearing my sister . I took care of her and 4 younger brothers from age 15-20. My sister continually needs ongoing financial support. She lived with me for months at a time (after I moved out and got married) maybe even a year at one of her 2 move ins. Then $1300 in money "loaned" to her when she moved out of state. Now she needs more money. I'm 48 she 33. She has a BA, and never put it to use. She is claiming depression disabled her- she couldn't work full time due to being tired all the time(but won't get government help). When she lived with me (1st time) she was on drugs(ecstasy)which was her excuse then for being messed up. When I asked her to get a diagnosis and get government financial aide, she won't. Now she claims she is on right path but keeps adopting animals from a shelter, even though she hasn't put a roof over her own head (living with an addicted man/boyfriend). This guy got violent for 3rd time. She has been working consistently but part-time, and needs to move out. Should I send her more money? I also have a son with autism and struggled with a difficult marriage but have financial stabiliy. Our dad died in 1994 when she was 18. More money or NOT???

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almost 6 years ago

I can't believe what I am reading! I have a little sister who is thirteen years younger than myself. Granted, she was registered for kindergarten the day I was registered for college, and the age gap was a bit large. Being the only children in our family, you could say my little sis was a bit of a surprise. When I was 13, no I did not want a sibling, but now at 31, I'm thankful. My sister has become a very reponsible and mature 19 year old and believe it or not, we have alot in common. She is my best friend. I am a mentor and a confidant to her. We talk through and plan our lives together. I couldn't imagine a day without her and thank the good Lord everyday for blessing our family with her. I can't believe how these other people are writing about their siblings. I have two children of my own and pray they are as close as my sister and I. Life is short, and should not be wasted over money matters and who's to blame! Make things right with your siblings before it's too late!!

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over 6 years ago

Lola, this hits on some of my questions also. As a 49 year old youngest of three daughters I have no respect or equality. My sister has stolen a very large amount of money from me through her obtaining POA (unbenounced to me) from a joint account with me father, he had given to me as a gift and changed his will to reflect that. I am disabled with invisable disability and have gotten no kind support from them only ridcule. In our early years I have seen greed and righciousness abound. What means,resources, rights and legal help do I have to set things right as my father would wish? ( he has Parkinsons)

Cat

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about 4 years ago

my 2 siblings control my mother; they took away my adopted daughter from me and removed her communication from me. I do not want to see them

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over 1 year ago

Who is the author of this article? Was hoping to please reference it. Ta

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about 3 years ago

Hi I am the youngest of 2 siblings my brother and I are 1 year 4months apart, yet he feels he has some sort of control over me. He has a lot of pride and a mentality that I have yet to describe. I lived with him for about 2months and he decided to move back home yet I was the last to find out all this where is the respect am I suppose to just go with the flow. we had gotten into a fist fight recently which turned out pretty bad and I still have anger within me, wehn I look at him all I see is a person I have no respect for him anymore, he has manipulated the family and lied to make it seem like he is the right one yet after proof of his lack of respect to me, he has no excuse. He thinks by appologising it will all be over??...and when it happens again I must just take the apology?...my family has called up a meeting to interven and I'd like to share my view on the situation in a fair manner can anyone help me with some insight? Thanks

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about 6 years ago

Looking on the internet for help with a problem with my older sister, I'm suprised to find so much material.



I have a sister 16 years older, who married and left home before I was really aware of her. Still we managed to have a fairly good relationship until I retired, and we had much more contact. Now she increasingly treats me as a 'junior' and goes out of her way to put down my achievements and activities (a further gap between us is that she left school at 14, and I became a university lecturer).



We have seriously quarrelled now, though I suspect that part of the problem is that her mental health is deteriorating (she is 78 and widowed). A pleasant person before, she is now very aggressive and has alienated several relatives and friends. Not sure what I can do.

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about 6 years ago

Well seems like the otehr posters arrived at this article seeking answers to troubled sibling relationships. Ditto for me too.

As the youngest of a now vanishing family (literally, my dad and brother passed away and other brother dissappeared after ripping off my mom) my one sibling is a sister that i have never gotten along with. Nothing has changed and whereas most of my life I was able to accept that distance though I reached out to her and supported her in various ways she has remained unsupportive and generally clueless about my life.

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over 6 years ago

Just researching to find out about sibling relationships never growing up. I still get treated the same as I have always been by my sister, who is the elder. She's friendly when she wants to be, but I get trashed when their is someone or something better around. When I'm in need of support or just in need it is on her terms. I see a pattern since our childhood that I have played as well, the willing puppy to put up with any acknowledgment to feel that I'm o.k.

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about 1 year ago

In the last paragraph, I would disagree that mundane conversations were the sole import of adult-elderly sibling contact (Scott and Roberto 1981, Allen 1977, Connidis 1992).



As an adult and older aged sibling, I value the excitement of ongoing and future events of the world, and our plans within them, as well as remeniscing about the past. I am not content to settle down and let life pass me by.



It seems that there is an inpenetrable gulf between what we once were, and raised doing, and believed in, and what the younger adult sibling believes in now.



I believe this article, though guised in one set pattern for older siblings, does not adequately discuss or lead the reader to the other patterns of elder adult siblings relationships that may occur and be vastly different due to life circumstances, then those stated here.



The article needs to broaden out with more current research, or take the reader to a more evolved sibling relationship pattens of todays generations. Not all people siblings are follow the same mold.