University of Missouri study: Sibling rivalry can lead to emotional problems

24 Dec

Scientists have studied birth order in families for many years. Birth order likely affects individual personality traits. The Child Development Institute reports in the article, Birth Order:

The following characteristics will not apply to all children in every family. Typical characteristics, however, can be identified:

Only

  • Child Pampered and spoiled.
  • Feels incompetent because adults are more capable.
  • Is center of attention; often enjoys position. May feel special.
  • Self-centered.
  • Relies on service from others rather than own efforts
  • Feels unfairly treated when doesn’t get own way.
    May refuse to cooperate.
  • Plays “divide and conquer” to get own way.

First Child

  • Is only child for period of time; used to being center
    of attention.
  • Believes must gain and hold superiority over other children.
  • Being right, controlling often important.
  • May respond to birth of second child by feeling unloved and neglected.
  • Strives to keep or regain parents’ attention through conformity. If this failed, chooses to misbehave.
  • May develop competent, responsible behavior or become very discouraged.
  • Sometime strives to protect and help others.
  • Strives to please.

Second Child

  • Never has parents’ undivided attention.
  • Always has sibling ahead who’s more advanced.
  • Acts as if in race, trying to catch up or overtake first child.
  • If first child is “good,” second may become “bad.” Develops abilities first child doesn’t exhibit. If first child successful, may feel uncertain of self and abilities.
  • May be rebel.
  • Often doesn’t like position.
    Feels “squeezed” if third child is born.
  • May push down other siblings.

Middle Child of Three

  • Has neither rights of oldest nor privileges of youngest.
  • Feels life is unfair.
  • Feels unloved, left out, “squeezed.”
  • Feels doesn’t have place in family.
  • Becomes discouraged and “problem child” or elevates self by pushing down other siblings.
  • Is adaptable.
  • Learns to deal with both oldest and youngest sibling.

Youngest Child

  • Behaves like only child.
  • Feels every one bigger and more capable.
  • Expects others to do things, make decisions, take responsibility.
  • Feels smallest and weakest. May not be taken seriously.
  • Becomes boss of family in getting service and own way.
  • Develops feelings of inferiority or becomes “speeder” and  overtakes older siblings.
  • Remains “The Baby.” Places others in service.
  • If youngest of three, often allies with oldest child against middle child.

NOTES: 1. The middle child of three is usually different from the middle child of a large family. The middle children of large families are often less competitive as parents don’t have as much time to give each child and so the children learn to cooperate to get what they want. 2. Only children usually want to be adults, and so don’t relate to peers very well. When they become adults, they often believe they’ve finally “made it” and can now relate better to adults as peers. 3. During their formative years, only children live primarily in the world of adults. They must learn how to operate in the big people’s world as well as how to entertain themselves. Thus they often become very creative in their endeavors.

(Adapted from Don Dinkmeyer, Gary D. McKay, and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr., Parent Education Leader’s Manual Coral Springs, F:; CMTI Press, 1978)

The prevalence of various birth orders in a family can contribute to sibling rivalry.

Laura Blue reports in the Time article, Sibling Rivalry: Squabbling May Lead to Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, Among Teens:

Anyone with a brother or sister can attest to the inevitability of conflicts during childhood, but frequent clashes may take a toll.

Squabbling over two topics in particular, researchers say, may put adolescents at risk for depressive symptoms and anxiety.

Psychologists at the University of Missouri reached that conclusion after surveying 145 adolescent sibling pairs over the course of a year. The researchers quizzed the kids on their sibling relationships, and also asked them to answer questionnaires to measure their self-esteem and symptoms of depression and anxiety. They found that kids with high self-esteem at the beginning of the study typically had fewer conflicts with their siblings one year later. But those who reported sibling conflict at the beginning of the study were much more likely to develop new mood problems over the following year.
http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/21/sibling-rivalry-squabbling-may-lead-to-depressive-symptoms-anxiety-among-teens/#ixzz2Fzd0ZqvT

Here is the University of Missouri press release:

 News Releases  /  2012

Sibling Squabbles Can Lead to Depression, Anxiety, Says MU Psychologist

House rules can help parents resolve conflicts and guard children’s mental health

Dec. 20, 2012Home

Story Contact(s):
Timothy Wall, walltj@missouri.edu, 573-882-3346

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Holiday presents will soon be under the tree for millions of adolescents. With those gifts may come sibling squabbles over violations of personal space, such as unwanted borrowing of a fashionable clothing item, or arguments over fairness, such as whose turn it is to play a new video game. Those squabbles represent two specific types of sibling conflict that can have different effects on a youth’s emotional health, according to a multi-year study by a University of Missouri psychologist. With these findings, parents can learn how to bring peace to the home and encourage their children’s healthy psychological development.

Our results show that conflicts about violations of personal space and property are associated with greater anxiety and lower self-esteem one year later in life,” said Nicole Campione-Barr, MU assistant professor of psychological science in the College of Arts and Science. “Conflicts over issues of equality and fairness are correlated to greater depression one year later.”

Campione-Barr and her colleagues studied 145 pairs of mostly European-American, middle-class siblings for one year. The average ages for the pairs were 15 and 12 years. The teens rated different topics of possible conflict, noting the frequency and intensity of the arguments. The arguments were organized into two categories: violations of personal domain or conflicts over fairness and equality. The study then examined correlations among the arguments and teens’ reports of depressed mood, anxiety and self-esteem after one year.

Although parents may be inclined to step in as arbiters, previous research has found that parents’ interventions into adolescent sibling conflict can be detrimental,” said Campione-Barr. “In concert with those prior findings, we believe our research suggests that setting household rules such as ‘knock before entering a sibling’s room,’ can be the best means for parents to resolve disputes and avoid appearing to play favorites. A calendar of chores and defined time limits for turns with a video game can help reduce conflicts over fairness. However, if a parent notes that one child consistently gets the short end of the stick, action should be taken to ensure one child isn’t being too subordinate. Also, if most sibling interactions become intense conflicts, a family should seek professional help, especially if violence is involved.”

Campione-Barr noted that one limitation to her study was that it was largely constrained in its demographic scope to white, middle-class Americans. Other cultures and economic classes may have different relationships among privacy, fairness and emotional well-being. Although adolescents in some households may not have their own rooms, they still need some degree of respect for personal space from both parents and siblings. For example, parents and siblings should respect the private nature of children’s diaries.

The next step in our research will be to examine the positive aspects of relationships among adolescent siblings and parents,” said Campione-Barr. “Strong, healthy family relationships are immensely beneficial later in life. For example, there are things people will tell their siblings that they would never tell their parents, or possibly even friends. We are currently studying disclosure and levels of trust among parents, siblings and peers.”

The study, “Differential associations between domains of sibling conflict and adolescent emotional adjustment,” was published in the journal Child Development.

Of course, every family will reflect their set of values, but families should have house rules.

Ray Fowler.org has 8 Great Family Rules to Help Any Home:

FAMILY RULES LIST

1. Tell the truth.

2. Treat each other with respect.

  • no yelling
  • no hitting
  • no kicking
  • no name-calling
  • no put-downs

3. No arguing with parents.

  • We want and value your input and ideas, but arguing means you have made your points more than once.

4. Respect each other’s property.

  • Ask permission to use something that doesn’t belong to you.

5. Do what Mom and Dad say the first time.

  • without complaining or throwing a fit!

6. Ask permission before you go somewhere.

7. Put things away that you take out.

8. Look for ways to be kind and helpful to each other. http://www.rayfowler.org/2007/06/12/eight-great-family-rules-to-help-any-home/

The best advice is simply teaching and living the “Golden Rule.”

Matthew 7:12 

New Living Translation (©2007)
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

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