Harnessing the Power of Sibling Relationships as a Tool for Optimizing Social-Emotional Development

ArticleinNew Directions for Child and Adolescent Development 2009(126):61-77 · September 2009with119 Reads
Impact Factor: 1.17 · DOI: 10.1002/cd.257 · Source: PubMed
Abstract

Sibling relationships provide one of the most stable and powerful developmental contexts for the transmission of both prosocial and antisocial behavior. As a source of support and skill development, sibling relationships can build competence in self-regulation and emotional understanding. However, sibling relationships marked by antisocial behavior, substance use, and conflict place children at risk for a host of negative outcomes. Family relationship features, particularly parenting practices and discord, contribute strongly to both the quality of sibling relationships and children's well-being. Our review of intervention strategies reveals that the potential of sibling relationships to promote socioemotional development may be best realized through family-centered approaches that build prosocial sibling interactions, curtail child behavior problems, and strengthen parenting.

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NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT, NO. 126, WINTER 2009 © WILEY PERIODICALS, INC.
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UBLISHED ONLINE IN WILEY INTERSCIENCE (WWW.INTERSCIENCE.WILEY.COM) • DOI: 10.1002/CAD.257
5
The work described in this chapter was supported by grants DA11997 and DA018734
from the National Institutes of Health to Elizabeth Stormshak, as well as grants
DA018760, DA07031, and DA16110, also from the National Institutes of Health.
Stormshak, E. A., Bullock, B. M., & Falkenstein, C. A. (2009). Harnessing the power of sib-
ling relationships as a tool for optimizing social–emotional development. In L. Kramer
& K. J. Conger (Eds.), Siblings as agents of socialization. New Directions for Child and Ado-
lescent Development, 126, 61–77. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Harnessing the Power of Sibling
Relationships as a Tool for Optimizing
Social–Emotional Development
Elizabeth A. Stormshak, Bernadette M. Bullock,
Corrina A. Falkenstein
Abstract
Sibling relationships provide one of the most stable and powerful developmen-
tal contexts for the transmission of both prosocial and antisocial behavior. As a
source of support and skill development, sibling relationships can build compe-
tence in self-regulation and emotional understanding. However, sibling relation-
ships marked by antisocial behavior, substance use, and conflict place children
at risk for a host of negative outcomes. Family relationship features, particu-
larly parenting practices and discord, contribute strongly to both the quality of
sibling relationships and children’s well-being. Our review of intervention strate-
gies reveals that the potential of sibling relationships to promote socioemotional
development may be best realized through family-centered approaches that build
prosocial sibling interactions, curtail child behavior problems, and strengthen
parenting.
© Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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62 SIBLINGS AS AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
M
ost people who grow up with one or more sisters or brothers know
that sibling relationships can greatly influence the social climate
of a family. Within the home, siblings typically function as models
of a wide variety of behaviors that range from socially acceptable to unac-
ceptable. In addition, siblings often serve as guides to the social world out-
side the reaches of family influence (Dunn, Brown, & Beardsall, 1991). This
chapter provides an overview of the sibling outcome literature from an eco-
logical perspective. As we review research findings that highlight the posi-
tive aspects of sibling relationships that can be harnessed to optimize youth
development, we also explore the potentially negative impact of sibling rela-
tionships, particularly, deviancy training, collusion, and coercive relation-
ship patterns. We conclude with a brief presentation of our model of a
family-centered intervention that addresses youth problem behaviors.
Although social development research has long focused on parent-child
relationship processes within the family and for the most part has neglected
sibling relationship dynamics, this focus has changed during the past several
decades. Systemic views of parenting now acknowledge that parenting does
not occur in a vacuum and that the sibling subsystem provides a unique and
powerful influence that can promote, detract, or be independent from par-
ents’ efforts to socialize their children (for reviews, see Brody, 1998; Volling,
2003). It is clear that the quality of sibling relationship can predict longitu-
dinal adjustment from middle childhood well into adolescence (Bank, Bur-
raston, & Snyder, 2004; Kim, McHale, Crouter, & Osgood, 2007).
An Ecological Approach to Understanding Sibling
Adjustment
The quality of the sibling relationship can profoundly affect children’s
socioemotional development, with both positive and negative outcomes.
Figure 5.1 presents an ecological model for understanding child adjustment
as a function of the social processes that children experience within family
and societal contexts. The family context may include both risk factors and
strengths, some of which are shown in the figure. Risk factors such as mar-
ital problems, depression, substance use, and experiences of discrimination
undermine parenting and place youth at risk for later problem behavior.
Protective factors such as healthy marital relationships, low stress, and clear
family values support family management skills and positive youth adjust-
ment. Because sibling relationships occur in the context of families, they are
vulnerable to the risk and protective factors that are directly related to par-
enting and youth problem behavior. A dynamic interaction between family
management and sibling adaptation mediates the link between contextual
risk factors and later child adjustment and is shaped by the family’s cul-
ture and values. This developmental model organizes our discussion of sib-
lings and the literature that supports the links between sibling adjustment
and social-emotional development across childhood.
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63HARNESSING THE POWER OF SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
Positive Sibling Relationships and Social
Development
Most children spend more time interacting with their siblings than with par-
ents, and children are involved with their siblings every day in multiple
ways (Dunn, 1983; McHale & Crouter, 1996). A recent study of sibling
quality and time revealed that siblings spend an average of ten hours
together per week in both constructive and unstructured activities (Tucker,
McHale, & Crouter, 2008). As children enter adolescence, they experience
less conflict with their siblings and increased gender-based differences in
support and intimacy (Kim, McHale, Osgood, & Crouter, 2006). Same-sex
girl dyads remain stable in their support and intimacy, whereas boy dyads
decrease in intimacy and support as adolescents. The amount of time sib-
lings spend together in constructive activities predicts self-esteem for both
older and younger siblings and peer competence for younger siblings, par-
ticularly for girls (Tucker et al., 2008). Not surprisingly, sibling relationships
provide one of the most stable and powerful developmental contexts for the
transmission of both antisocial and prosocial behavior.
Figure 5.1. Ecological Model of Family Social Processes
Related to Child Adjustment
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64 SIBLINGS AS AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
Self-Regulation. One factor related to the development of both exter-
nalizing and internalizing behavior is self-regulation: the ability to regulate
behavior during stressful situations, maintain focused attention, and mod-
ulate underlying reactivity (Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981). Self-regulation
is also related to constructs such as effortful control (Rothbart & Rueda,
2005) and emotional regulation (Blair, Denham, Kochanoff, & Whipple,
2004). Given the nature of the sibling relationship, it seems logical that
self-regulation skills would develop in the context of positive sibling rela-
tionships. This model is consistent with much of the early work on sibling
relationships that focused on feeling state language development, perspec-
tive taking, and affective control (Brown & Dunn, 1992; Dunn et al., 1991;
Howe, 1991). Nonetheless, we know little about the linkages between self-
regulation in the context of the sibling relationship and later positive
adjustment.
Brody, Stoneman, Smith, and Gibson (1999) tested a model in which
family relationships and parent psychological resources predict child self-
regulation, which in turn predicts the quality of the sibling relationship.
They found that in a sample of eighty-five African American youth, the links
between family processes and sibling relationship quality were fully medi-
ated by self-regulation. This research was not longitudinal, and so the direc-
tionality of effects is unclear. Does self-regulation predict sibling relationship
quality, or is the reverse true? Either way, positive sibling relationships are
related to a child’s ability to self-regulate emotions and develop social com-
petence. Even after controlling for children’s relationships with parents, pos-
itive sibling relationships in middle childhood predict youth adjustment
(Pike, Coldwell, & Dunn, 2005). It is clear that positive sibling relation-
ships in the context of a supportive family environment can have positive
benefits for youth, including reducing the risk of later depression and
enhancing social competence with peers (Kim et al., 2007; Stormshak, Bel-
lanti, & Bierman, 1996).
Parenting Practices. Parenting practices have long been known to
directly affect the quality of sibling relationships. Factors such as harsh, incon-
sistent, or differential parenting, in which one sibling is treated with more pos-
itivity or negativity than another, have consistently been found to affect both
the quality of the sibling relationship and behavioral outcomes (McHale,
Updegraff, Jackson-Newson, Tucker, & Crouter, 2000; Brody, Stoneman, &
McCoy, 1992). Children who are exposed to harsh parenting and environ-
ments characterized by unresolved disputes are significantly more likely to
develop a behavioral repertoire that fosters conflictual interactions with sib-
lings. In particular, they are more likely to handle disputes by means of aggres-
sive, coercive behaviors, interpret neutral sibling interactions as hostile or
aggressive, or be motivated by negative, self-serving intentions (Brody, Arias,
& Fincham, 1996; Crick & Dodge, 1994; Fincham, 1994).
Differential parenting, or children’s perceptions that one sibling is being
treated more favorably than another, also affects the quality of the sibling
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
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65HARNESSING THE POWER OF SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS
relationship and later child adjustment. When children perceive fairness in
the parenting system, sibling relationships are more positive and are linked
to better adjustment (Kowal, Kramer, Krull, & Crick, 2002; McHale et al.,
2000). Similarly, differential parenting creates stress in the marital dyad and
has been linked to longitudinal changes in marital quality from the off-
springs’ middle childhood to adolescence (Kan, McHale, & Crouter, 2008).
A variety of studies on family dynamics have shown that behaviors during
dyadic disagreements, and sibling perceptions of parental behavior dur-
ing such encounters, have significant bearing on child development (Fein-
berg, Neiderhiser, Simmens, Reiss, & Hetherington, 2000; McGuire, Manke,
Eftekhari, & Dunn, 2000; McHale et al., 2000; Vuchinich, Emery, & Cas-
sidy, 1988).
Siblings: Fellow Travelers on the Developmental Road
More than twenty years ago, Gerald Patterson published “Siblings: Fellow
Travelers in Coercive Family Processes” (Patterson, 1984), an important
chapter about the role of parent attention, effort, and skill in the manage-
ment of sibling dynamics. Early research on the coercive model suggested
that antisocial siblings are involved in high levels of conflict and engage in
more coercive interactions in the home than target children engage in with
their parents (Loeber & Tengs, 1986). In the decades that followed,
researchers discovered that siblings are fellow travelers on an expansive
developmental path that includes both antisocial and prosocial outcomes
(Abramovitch, Corter, & Lando, 1979; Rowe, 1981; Scarr & Grajek, 1982).
For example, chronic conflict and coercion between siblings have been
linked to academic difficulty, poor peer relations (Abramovitch et al., 1979;
Rowe, 1981; Scarr & Grajek, 1982), the development and maintenance of
aggressive behavior (Bank, Patterson, & Reid, 1996), adolescent substance
abuse, and pervasive feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and hostility in
young adulthood (Bank et al., 1996; Dunn, Slomkowski, Beardsall, &
Rende, 1984). Conversely, positive sibling relationships have been found to
promote the development of prosocial behavior (Patterson, 1984), includ-
ing empathy, social skills, and academic competence, as well as provide
emotional support (Stormshak et al., 1996; Tucker, Updegraff, McHale, &
Crouter, 1999). Close sibling relationships in adolescence may protect youth
from the development of depression and may support positive adjustment,
particularly among girls (Kim et al., 2007; McHale, Crouter, & Tucker,
1999).
Although a substantial literature describes the influence of sibling rela-
tionships across various domains of development, these studies have gen-
erated inconsistent results. For example, some studies revealed that the
association between sibling support and developmental outcomes yielded
negative correlations between older sibling support and younger sibling
adjustment even after controlling for gender, race, family activities, and the
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66 SIBLINGS AS AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
perception of the family environment (Widmer & Weiss, 2000). One might
assume these results suggest that a supportive relationship with an older sib-
ling is associated with poorer adjustment for younger siblings. In contrast,
warmth in sibling relationships has been associated with fewer conduct
problems and reports of loneliness, and greater self-worth (East & Rook,
1992; Kim et al., 2007; Stocker, 1994). In addition, warmth and positive sib-
ling relations that occur in the context of deviant behavior and coercion
have a negative impact on later youth adjustment and predict problem
behavior for both siblings (Slomkowski, Rende, Conger, Simons, & Conger,
2001; Stormshak, Comeau, & Shepard, 2004).
The complex picture that emerges from this research is that because
sibling relationships occur in the context of families, they cannot be disen-
tangled from the relationships that children have with their parents and
peers or from the role that parenting skills play in sibling outcomes. At the
same time, many factors in a child’s environment simultaneously influence
both sibling relationship and developmental outcomes.
It is likely, given the model presented in Figure 5.1, that factors such as
child temperament (Brody, Stoneman, & Gauger, 1996; Stoneman & Brody,
1993), age gap and gender differences (Brownfield & Sorenson, 1994),
absence of identification with siblings (Schachter & Stone, 1985), level
of parental involvement in sibling conflict (McHale, Updegraff, Jackson-
Newson, Tucker, & Crouter, 2000), child perceptions of differential
parental treatment (Feinberg et al., 2000; Kowal & Kramer, 1997; McHale
et al., 2000), and cultural context (McHale, Whiteman, Kim, & Crouter,
2007) contribute to the inconsistency of these findings. Each of these fam-
ily and contextual influences may differentially affect the nature of the sib-
ling relationship and behavioral outcomes.
Relationship Processes: Coercion and Collusion in the
Sibling Relationship
Although several studies provide evidence that older siblings may influence
the initiation of their younger siblings’ substance use or delinquency (Brook,
Whiteman, Gordon, & Brenden, 1983; Conger & Rueter, 1996; Duncan,
Duncan, & Hops, 1996), the mechanisms underlying such influence are
poorly understood. Siblings may share a history of coercive interactions with
parents that set them on a trajectory toward poor academic performance and
deviant peer relations. This coercive family history may lead children with
antisocial characteristics to function as “trainers” of antisocial behavior for
their siblings (Loeber & Tengs, 1986; Patterson, 1982, 1984). As children
in the same family mutually develop patterns of problem behavior, it is pos-
sible that they actively form coalitions of deviance both within the family
and outside the home in shared peer networks (Bullock & Dishion, 2002).
Two relationship processes have been directly associated with child and
adolescent behavior problems: coercion and collusion. Coercion refers to a
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
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67HARNESSING THE POWER OF SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS
process by which siblings use aggression and other aversive behaviors to ter-
minate conflict. Collusion refers to a mechanism by which siblings reinforce
deviant behavior through the positive reinforcement of rule-breaking talk.
Coercion. The coercion model of antisocial behavior posits that prob-
lem behavior is the product of an interactive process in which family mem-
bers encourage antisocial acts through repetitive negative reinforcement
sequences (Patterson, 1982). Children with an antisocial sibling have been
found to be both affected by the behavior of this sibling and influential in
shaping the behavior of this sibling in the course of coercive exchanges in the
home (Patterson, 1984). Siblings in distressed families have been reported
to be more coercive than those in nondistressed families and more likely to
extend a coercive sequence in the event of an antisocial sibling’s attack.
Because siblings in troubled families are participants in a distressed system
that is influenced by the contribution of all family members, coercive sibling
interactions are fundamental determinants for future antisocial conduct, with
siblings functioning as teachers and pupils (Patterson, 1984, 1986).
Coercive sibling relationships are predictive of later adjustment diffi-
culties for boys with identified behavior problems, as well as for their sib-
lings. Negative patterns of sibling interaction during middle childhood have
been found to be not only prognostic of future maladjustment, but also to
be among the best predictors of boys’ psychopathology in adolescence and
early adulthood (Bank et al., 1996). Synchronous negative interactions with
mothers and siblings during middle childhood have consistently predicted
adult arrests and severity of criminal history, particularly for boys.
In families engaged in high rates of conflict and coercion, sibling inter-
action may be simply another context in which children learn to use aggres-
sion and other forms of aversive behaviors. Parents who do not attend to and
manage sibling play may be inadvertently allowing conflicts to be resolved
by means of coercion. Coercion, then, is a process embedded in family con-
flict and negative affect and is highly related to contentious sibling relation-
ships and concurrent and future antisocial behavior (Bank et al., 1996).
Collusion. Although coercion emphasizes the relative contribution of
negative sibling dynamics to conduct problems, recent observational research
suggests that positive interactions among siblings may also lead to the devel-
opment of a maladaptive behavioral repertoire (Bullock & Dishion, 2002;
Criss & Shaw, 2005). Sibling collusion is a process by which siblings form
coalitions that promote deviance and undermine parenting. Videotaped fam-
ily interactions have revealed a process by which siblings in families with a
child at high risk for conduct problems exhibit reliably higher rates of collu-
sion than do those in families with a normative target child. Sibling col-
lusion also accounts for variance in problem behavior, including delinquency
and substance use, after controlling for involvement with deviant peers (Bul-
lock & Dishion, 2002). Collusive attempts to undermine parental efforts to
monitor and set limits regarding behavior form a common ground among
siblings, potentially amplifying the risk of mutuality in problem behavior
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
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68 SIBLINGS AS AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
during early adolescence. This process is found to persist one year later, sug-
gesting that this dynamic may be relatively stable during adolescence (Bul-
lock & Dishion, 2001).
Siblings and Substance Use. Ample research supports the links
between siblings and substance use. As discussed by Whiteman, Becerra, and
Killoren in Chapter Three in this volume, younger siblings are exposed to
substances and often initiate use at an earlier age than older siblings do (Bank
et al., 1996; Brook, Whiteman, Gordon, & Brenden, 1983). We examined the
links between siblings’ substance use and youth access to substances over time
by videotaping sibling interaction and learning about youth, sibling, and fam-
ily dynamics in 161 families enrolled in our Project Alliance study. We mea-
sured substance use, antisocial behavior, and peer deviance over time, through
age nineteen. We found that sibling deviance in sixth grade predicted siblings’
increased substance use over time, with higher levels of sibling deviance pre-
dicting greater growth in substance use (see Figure 5.2). Using lag sequential
modeling, we observed that initial levels of sibling deviance in sixth grade pre-
dicted the degree of both seventh-grade substance use and siblings’ use and
access to substances. Access to substances through sibling use continued to
significantly predict the use of substances for our target youth through age
nineteen. Sibling substance use and access to substances through siblings pre-
dict 27 percent of the variance in target child substance use by age nineteen
(see Figure 5.3). Clearly sibling substance use and access to substances
through siblings is a major contributor to youths’ later problem behavior.
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
Figure 5.2. Growth of Substance Use Predicted by
Sibling Deviance over Time
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Figure 5.3. Longitudinal Influences of Sibling Behavior on Substance Use
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70 SIBLINGS AS AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
Clearly sibling relationships are influenced by multiple factors. They
are sensitive to contextual risks and protective factors such as parents’ mar-
ital quality, parenting skills and behaviors, and adult mental health; these
family context factors may have both immediate and long-term effects on
individual adjustment. That said, our attention must turn to effective inter-
ventions with siblings and a model for intervention with siblings and fam-
ilies. The literature has demonstrated the salient role siblings play in the
development of various problem behaviors and positive outcomes and
provides support for the importance of family-based interventions that
target the sibling relationship as a mechanism of change (Rowe, Rodgers, &
Meseck-Bushey, 1992). Accordingly, a family-centered, ecologically based
treatment model that includes the targeted child and the people and con-
texts that are meaningful to the child, including siblings, is most likely to
promote positive youth outcomes.
A Family-Centered Approach to Working with
Problem Behavior
As this review suggests, siblings can profoundly affect child development
through coercive and collusive relationship patterns that may contribute to
problem behaviors, such as substance use and delinquency. On the basis of
the research described in this chapter, it is logical to assume that working
directly with siblings, or with siblings and parents, may reduce these prob-
lems. Interestingly, very few intervention studies focus exclusively on the sib-
ling relationship. This is primarily because for many families, increasing
communication and interaction between high-risk siblings may actually
increase problem behavior among younger siblings if they are exposed to
high-risk behavior. Our research suggests that in some cases, reducing ex-
posure to high-risk siblings may be the best treatment strategy for younger
siblings and other vulnerable family members. Interventions aimed at
improving parenting skills such as monitoring, positive reinforcement, and
appropriate limit setting often trickle down to influence the nature of the sib-
ling relationship and sibling developmental outcomes. Overall, a targeted
approach to family intervention that builds on the ecological model and con-
siders the context of development for the family and each child is warranted.
We use a multilevel model for engaging and intervening with families
that explicitly integrates intervention targets, such as family management,
parent-child relationships, and sibling relationships, with principles of
behavior change (Dishion & Kavanagh, 2003; Dishion & Stormshak, 2007).
In this model, called EcoFIT, we tailor interventions with children and fam-
ilies to fit their current family circumstances on the basis of the assessment
results of the Family Check-Up (FCU). The FCU provides an ecological
assessment that addresses parents’ motivation to change (see Miller & Roll-
nick, 2002). We videotape family interactions and collect data from parents,
teachers, and youth involved in the intervention. We then provide feedback
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71HARNESSING THE POWER OF SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS
to families using motivational interviewing techniques that are strengths
based and adapted for each family’s needs.
Some families may participate in interventions that target only the
encouragement of skills, such as positive reinforcement, especially if limit
setting, parental monitoring, and communication are found through the
assessment to be parenting strengths. Or we may tailor our approach to
building limit setting, depending on the number of parents in the family,
qualities of the sibling dyad and behavior of individual siblings, and fami-
lies’ sociocultural background. In this sense, the EcoFIT approach proposes
a menu of empirically supported interventions with diverse venues of ser-
vice delivery. Offering an intervention menu and a variety of flexible service
delivery options promotes parent engagement and motivation (Dishion &
Kavanagh, 2003; Miller & Rollnick, 2002).
This approach to intervention reduces the focus on one particular tar-
get child while increasing the focus on family management, siblings, and
contexts of change (see Figure 5.1). As such, the treatment may vary
depending on the particular circumstances of the child and sibling. For
example, in a family in which an older sibling uses drugs and spends a lot
of time alone with a younger sibling, the intervention may focus on alter-
ing the children’s schedules and increasing parental supervision of both chil-
dren after school. For families involved in coercive relationship patterns and
those in which sibling collusion is undermining parents’ authority in the
home, interventions may be tailored to improve parents’ ability to extin-
guish the coercive cycle, improve family relationship quality, and reduce sib-
lings’ ability to negatively influence family dynamics. Alternatively, in a
family where siblings are close and mutually supportive with low rates of
problem behavior, the intervention may include activities with siblings that
support teamwork and a positive sibling relationship, as well as encourage-
ment and incentives to support effective parenting. This approach enables
all family members to benefit when a child is referred for treatment.
Our intervention model parallels recent research focused directly on
parenting and the effects of parenting interventions on multiple siblings.
Brotman and colleagues (Brotman et al., 2005; Brotman, Gouley, O’Neal,
& Klein, 2004) found that parents with an adolescent engaged in serious
delinquent behaviors were motivated to participate in a program focused on
preventing problem behaviors in their younger preschool-age children
(Brotman et al., 2003, 2004). Most striking, they found that their interven-
tion that strengthened the parenting of preschool children also improved
older adolescent siblings’ peer relationships and reduced antisocial behav-
ior even though most of these adolescents did not directly participate in the
intervention. These results suggest that interventions with parents and
young siblings can improve parenting practices that generalize to produce
fewer problem behaviors of older adolescent siblings.
Brestan, Eyberg, Boggs, and Algina (1997) also tested the generalizabil-
ity of treatment effects on nontargeted siblings. Parents and children referred
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
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72 SIBLINGS AS AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
for conduct problems engaged in parent–child interaction training, and
the investigators examined the effects of the training on the siblings not
involved in treatment. Treatment focused on addressing the referred child’s
behavior, and parents were encouraged not to include siblings in home prac-
tice skills. When compared with the control group, both untreated siblings
and the referred children were reported by parents to exhibit fewer conduct
problems. This study further supports the notion that treating one child may
have spillover effects on siblings who are residing in the home, even when
these siblings are not directly involved in treatment.
Kennedy and Kramer (2008) developed a preventive intervention
designed to help siblings aged four to eight years improve their sibling rela-
tionship by developing emotional competencies and prosocial behaviors.
Results suggest that sibling relationships are amenable to intervention and
that teaching emotion regulation skills to siblings may be a key domain
for improving sibling relationship quality. This outcome is important for
understanding the developmental context in which sibling relationships
operate.
Although we have not directly tested the impact of the FCU on sibling
interactions, we have examined whether this intervention improves basic
parenting skills, such as monitoring children and providing support. The
model has been applied in both early childhood and adolescence. In the
Early Steps project, young children starting at age two were the primary
focus of the intervention. The FCU intervention significantly improved both
problem behavior and observed positive behavior support of parents, as well
as proactive parenting (Dishion et al., 2008; Gardner, Shaw, Dishion, Bur-
ton, & Supplee, 2007). Improving parenting skills with one child will likely
have the benefit of improved parenting with all children in the family. Rela-
tionships with family members are dynamic processes that change and influ-
ence development over time (Dishion & Snyder, 2004). The improvement
of any relationship in the family would likely have a positive impact on the
relationships of other family members. The effects of the EcoFIT interven-
tion on sibling relationship quality can be examined in future research.
Conclusion
It is surprising that so little consideration has been given to the role of sib-
lings in child and family treatment considering the longevity of the sibling
relationship and the role of siblings in the development of positive and nega-
tive youth behaviors. The studies described in this chapter support the notion
that the role of siblings in family relationships and treatment outcomes is
complex and that it warrants increased attention in both clinical and research
domains. Mechanisms of sibling socialization should be considered when
developing larger intervention studies and family-centered approaches
to treatment. As portrayed in the ecological model presented in Figure 5.1,
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73HARNESSING THE POWER OF SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS
sibling relationships do not exist in isolation; rather, they are significantly
shaped by family relationships within the larger sociocultural context.
Sibling relationships are key predictors of youth outcomes, affecting
both positive adjustment and problem behaviors. It would be desirable to
state that sibling relationships characterized by positive support and inti-
macy predict enhanced developmental outcomes, whereas those character-
ized by negative interactions and conflict predict poor outcomes. Yet the
picture that emerges from the sibling literature is much more complex, sug-
gesting that additional factors, such as parenting, self-regulation, and peer
relationships, also play a role in mutually influencing sibling relationships
and subsequent outcomes. Interaction effects are likely; for example, some
positive sibling interaction processes (such as support) may be detrimental
when they occur in the context of deviant behavior (substance use, for
example). Alternatively, some negative sibling interaction processes, such
as conflict, can paradoxically have a positive influence on development
because they contribute to the acquisition of social skills and conflict nego-
tiation. Intervention models that take these complexities into consideration
and target potential mediating factors, such as family, peer, and sibling rela-
tionship processes, will be most successful at reducing later risk for youth.
Future intervention models should strive to integrate these research
findings to identify effective intervention strategies that reduce risk and pro-
mote positive adjustment over time. Clearly interventions that boost the
positive aspects of the sibling relationship while addressing potential nega-
tive influences are promising interventions for at-risk youth. These inter-
ventions should occur in the context of family-based models that reduce
contextual risks while promoting protective factors and environmental sup-
ports. Intervention models that directly test the impact of family-centered
approaches on all siblings will be vital to furthering our understanding of
effective treatments for youth.
References
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ELIZABETH A. STORMSHAK is an associate professor of counseling psychology at
the University of Oregon and codirector of the Child and Family Center, Eugene,
Oregon. E-mail: bstorm@uoregon.edu.
B
ERNADETTE M. BULLOCK is a research scientist at the University of Oregon
Child and Family Center, Eugene, Oregon. E-mail: bullock@uoregon.edu.
C
ORINNA A. FALKENSTEIN is a National Institute of Mental Health predoctoral
trainee at the University of Oregon Child and Family Center, Eugene, Oregon.
E-mail: cfalkens@uoregon.edu.
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT • DOI: 10.1002/cd
Page 17
    • "Many workers have realized if the prosocial aspects of the sibling experience can be consolidated and enhanced through family-based interventions, the outcomes for children in adolescence are likely to be more successful (Caspi, 2011). After reviewing a range of intervention strategies, Stormshak, Bullock, and Falkenstein (2009) concluded that socio-emotional development in children may best be influenced if sibling relationships can be improved " through family-centered approaches that build prosocial sibling interactions, curtail child behavior problems, and strengthen parenting " (p. 61). "
    Full-text · Book · Jan 2015
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    • "The authors are not aware of where this approach has been considered before in the context of the family business. Furthermore systemic views of parenting acknowledge that parenting does not occur in a vacuum (Stormshak et al. 2009) and that the sibling subsystems and other subsystems provide a unique and powerful influence that can promote, detract, or be independent from parents " efforts to socialize their children (for reviews, see Brody, 1998; Volling, 2003). Considering the " business " as another subsystem in this complex socialization process could, it was felt, shed some light on how the processes later influenced leadership and succession of women in the family business. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper focuses on the socialisation process of female heirs" pathways to leadership in family businesses. Findings from the first part of a two stage study which considers female succession to management from the family unit"s perspective are presented. An ecological model of the family socialization process which takes into account the family unit in the business is adopted. Little systematic research has been conducted which seeks to understand the contextual and individual factors that project women into positions of leadership within the family firm (Sharma, 2004:14). Findings suggest that daughters are socialised in various ways.
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  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Few studies have distinguished similarities and differences between continuing bonds as they appear in various bereaved populations, particularly parent versus sibling cohorts following a child's death. This mixed-method study compared how parents and siblings experienced continuing bonds in 40 families who lost a child to cancer. Thirty-six mothers, 24 fathers, and 39 siblings were recruited 3-12 months post-loss (M = 10.7, SD = 3.5). Nearly all participants (97%) reported engaging in purposeful bonds with deceased children, while only 14% reported nonpurposeful connections. Over half of participants (58%) experienced comforting effects from reminders of the deceased child, whereas only 10% of family members experienced discomforting effects. Mothers communicated with the deceased, thought about the deceased, and did things that the deceased child would have liked more often than siblings. Mothers also reported significantly more comforting effects than siblings. Additional research is needed to further delineate continuing bonds for different types of loss and examine associations with positive and negative outcomes for bereaved individuals.
    No preview · Article · May 2011 · Death Studies
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