Observed sibling interaction: links with the marital and the mother-child relationship

Dev Psychol. 1998 Mar;34(2):288-98. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.34.2.288.


The study examines whether the link between the marital relationship and sibling interaction is direct or mediated by the mother-child relationship. Seventy-three same-sex siblings pairs aged 3 years 6 months to 8 years 6 months were observed during free play. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing marital functioning and their relationship with their 2 children. Results indicated that older siblings' negative behavior is linked with negative dimensions of the marital and the mother-child relationship, whereas younger siblings' negative behavior is linked with the mother-child and the differential mother-child relationship. Siblings; positive behavior, although linked with spacing, is not linked with positive dimensions of family interaction. Most important, the linkage between negative marital relations and older siblings; negative behavior was found to be mediated by maternal power assertion, thereby supporting the indirect model of negative family interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Intervals
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Sibling Relations*