Influences on Sibling Relationships (page 4)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on May 1, 2014

Individual Children's Characteristics and Sibling Relationships

As in any relationship, individual characteristics shape the nature of the sibling relationship. Some research has shown that temperament and sociability can influence the qualities of the relationship (Kendrick and Dunn, 1983). Do two siblings enjoy doing things together? Are many or few of their interests the same? Are both outgoing, wanting to be with other people or adventurous, trying new things?

Would they rather spend a sizable amount of time alone reading or working on a hobby? Does one like to take the lead and the other one follows? Is one or are both children moody, unable to deal with frustration, or poor sharers? Sharing experiences, whether failures or successes, bring siblings closer together. Having fun or helping each other also strengthens sibling bonds. Later in life, reminiscences are important. All this affects the short- and long-term closeness, power/status, cooperation/conflict, and rivalry in each relationship.

Sibling Interaction on Development

Children's personalities, social and cognitive skills, self-concepts, values, and sense of protection from the outside world are influenced by their sibling relationships. Siblings also affect children's roles in peer groups, in selecting friends, and in the larger world. The interests and skills children develop in their sibling relationships are often repeated later in choosing an occupation, mate, or deciding on the number of children to have. Siblings influence all sorts of competencies. This is particularly true in their play, especially the dramatic play of children under age six. One example is the close similarity of siblings in tests of creative thinking.

Children's self-image and gender role is first formed in the family. How children interpret the way parents and siblings see them affects what they think about themselves. A sibling is like a looking glass in which a child's thoughts and values are reflected. "Is this behavior acceptable?" "Are my ideas good or bad?" Older siblings are gender models for behavior and attitudes. An older brother becomes particularly important to a young boy in a home where there is no father.

Siblings protect each other outside the family and provide an emotional anchorage to each other in times of stress or crisis. Although relationships change over the years and distance may limit contact, siblings find strength in each other in times of crisis or celebrations like funerals or weddings. For better or for worse, sibling relationships are for life!

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