Associations Between Parental Differential Treatment and Sibling Involvement and Conflict

Open Access
Author:
Harmeling, Carolyn Grace
Area of Honors:
Psychology
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Alysia Blandon, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • parental differential treatment
  • sibling relationship quality
  • sibling conflict
  • sibling involvement
Abstract:
The quality of sibling relationships has been shown to have important effects on child adjustment. Good quality sibling relationships can promote positive adjustment, while sibling relationships of poor quality can exacerbate adjustment problems as children age (Buist & Vermande, 2014). One factor that influences sibling relationship quality is parental differential treatment (Jenkins et al., 2005). This study examined the association between differential parental treatment in the way that parents respond to children’s positive and negative emotions and sibling relationship quality. It was hypothesized that differential parental responses to children’s emotions would be associated with more sibling conflict and less sibling involvement. It was also hypothesized that effects would be more salient for differential responses to children’s positive emotions than children’s negative emotions, and that maternal differential responses to children’s emotions would have a greater effect on sibling conflict and involvement than paternal differential responses to children’s emotions. Participants were four person families with two children between 2 to 5 years old. Mothers and fathers completed questionnaires on their own reactions to children’s positive and negative emotions as well as questionnaires on each child’s level of sibling involvement and conflict. Results indicated that differential parental reactions to children’s emotions decreased both sibling involvement and sibling conflict. No evidence was found to show that parental differential responses to positive emotions impacted sibling relationships more than parental differential responses to negative emotions. There was also no evidence to show that maternal differential responses to children’s emotions impacted sibling relationship quality more than paternal differential responses to children’s emotions. The findings of this study show the importance of taking a family systems perspective to examine the sibling relationship.