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Explaining Sibling Similarities: Perceptions of Sibling Influences

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 36 Issue: 7 Dated: October 2007 Pages: 963-972
Shawn D. Whiteman; Susan M. McHale; Ann C. Crouter
Date Published
October 2007
10 pages
This study examined the extent to which older siblings served as sources of influence for their younger brothers and sisters by assessing the links between youth’s perceptions of sibling influence and their characteristics in four areas: risky behavior, peer competence, and interests in sports and the arts.
Analyses revealed that second-borns’ who reported strong sibling influence were more similar to their older brothers and sisters in terms of risky behaviors, peer competence, athletic interests, and art interests. In each instance connections were qualified by older siblings’ personal qualities. Second-borns’ perceptions of influence were positively linked to siblings’ reports of intimacy and temporal involvement, but not to reports of negativity. Sibling similarities were most evident when younger siblings reported sibling influence and when their older brothers and sisters reported high engagement, competence, or interest in particular domain. For example, with respect to youth’s engagement in the domains of risky behavior and peer competence, the greatest similarity between older and younger siblings was evident when second-borns reported a high degree of sibling influence and when their older brother or sister was engaged in those behaviors or was more competent. With respect to youth’s interests in athletics, the only difference was between younger sisters who reported high sibling influence; girls with older brothers and sisters who were more interested in sports reported significantly greater interest in sports than did girls with older siblings who were less interested in sports. For youth’s art interests, younger siblings reported more interest in art when they rated their sibling as more influential and when their older sibling was more interested in art; their ratings of interest were higher than those of other second-born except younger siblings who reported less sibling influence and had older brothers or sisters who were less interested in art. The study was limited by the ethnic composition and its cross-sectional design (White and primarily working and middle class). Also, the study was unable to determine whether youth who reported greater sibling influence became more similar to their older brothers and sisters over time. Table, figures, references