Siblings impact child outcomes as much as parents
by Sarah Forrest|| 10 May 2017
Dr. Mark Feinberg, the lead investigator of Penn State University’s Siblings Are Special Project, runs a social research study into sibling rivalry and its affects on individual children and whole families. His outcomes so far prove that sibling relationships exert almost as strong a force on shaping a child as parental ones do. Siblings are in large part responsible for how a child develops “different varieties of friendships, romantic relationships, emotional and mental health problems, problematic behaviors, and achievements.”
And often that stems from the negative aspect of sibling relationships: rivalry and conflict. Anyone with more than one child – or who grew up with a sibling – know that one of the primary hallmarks of the sibling relationship is conflict. It is a powerful, constant force in the life of a child. And Feinberg has a few recommendations to help steer the relationship back into the positive zone when things get rough.
- “Feinberg says that parents who spend one-on-one time with kids, in addition to communal family time, deflate rivalries.” Just more of being together as a family isn’t the key. When siblings feel they aren’t constantly competing for their parents’ attention, everything improves.
- Parents should help siblings mediate – not leave them to figure it out or impose a solution for them. This can feel like a tricky balance in the moment, but it sets kids up for a lifetime of positive conflict resolution in all relationships.
- Encourage cooperative activities, like building something together. This deflects competition in an obvious way, but also causes positive feelings of collaboration and unity.