Young adult sibling relationships
Yaktus, Tamara Ranae
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A survey was conducted of 378 undergraduate students who reported on their "closest" and "least close" sibling relationships. The proposed model included both dyadic relationship variables (relative age, sex of dyad, age spacing) and systemic family variables (family size, sex of sibship, family type). Respondents rated positive and negative qualities of their closest and least close sibling relationships. Chodorow's object-relations theory, based on the traditional family (with the mother as the primary caregiver), provided the contextual base for the model. For this study, the theory was expanded to include families in which the father was involved in childcare and/or household tasks. Further, while Chodorow only considers the mother-father-child triad, this study also included same-sex and cross-sex sibling relationships. Contrary to expectations based on the childhood sibling literature, relative age and age spacing were not significant factors in these young adults' sibling relationships. Predictably, there were significant differences between the positive and negative qualities of sibling relationships. Further, participants rated their closest sibling relationship more positively than their least close sibling relationship. However, the two types of relationships differed only minimally on negativity ratings. There were significant correlations between the positive ratings of the closest and least close sibling relationships and between the negative ratings of those relationships. This finding emphasizes the importance of family context in determining sibling relationships. In tests of the proposed model, there were significant interactions between respondent sex, sex of the sibling, and the sibling relationships (closest, least close). For ratings of closest siblings, same-sex relationships were more positive, and for male respondents more negative, than were cross-sex relationships. Similarly, having a same-sex closest sibling was associated with more positive and less negative least close sibling relationships regardless of the sex of the least close sibling. Results also suggest sibship sex (all-male, allfemale, mixed-sex) is important to the closest sibling relationship, while the larger context of family type (egalitarian, modern, traditional) is important to the least close sibling relationship. Both dyadic and contextual variables, therefore, appear important to understanding the dynamics of young adult sibling relationships.