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Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 383–397 | Cite as

And What About Siblings? A Longitudinal Analysis of Sibling Effects on Youth’s Intergroup Attitudes

  • Katharina Eckstein
  • Jan Šerek
  • Peter Noack
Empirical Research

Abstract

Within the process of political socialization, the family is of particular importance. Apart from parents, however, little is known about the role of other close family members. The present study examined if siblings affect each other’s intergroup attitudes (i.e., intolerance towards immigrants, social dominance orientation). Drawing on a sample of 362 sibling dyads (older siblings: M age = 17.77, 53.6% female; younger siblings: M age = 13.61, 61.3% female), the results showed that older siblings’ intergroup attitudes predicted younger siblings’ attitudes, but this effect was moderated by gender. Specifically, older siblings’ intolerance and social dominance orientation were only found to affect their younger sisters, yet not their younger brothers. Although younger siblings’ intergroup attitudes had no main effect on older siblings, a significant moderation by age indicated that younger siblings affected older siblings’ social dominance orientation with increasing age. These moderation effects of age and gender were not mediated by the quality of family relationships. The findings also remained the same when parental intergroup attitudes were taken into account. While siblings were generally identified as an important agent of political socialization in youth, the results also highlight the necessity to further examine the mechanism that either facilitate or hinder sibling effects.

Keywords

Siblings Political socialization Family Youth Intergroup attitudes Intolerance 

Introduction

Of the many factors that shape young people’s socio-political attitudes, the family deserves particular attention. Home is where most young people first encounter politics and the role of family–primarily of parents–has been well documented within political socialization research (Jennings et al. 2009). One of the most prominent ways in which family affects young people’s socio-political development is the transmission of attitudes and behaviors from parents to their offspring. Accordingly, young people who grow up in a politically active family environment are not only more likely to become active themselves (e.g., Verba et al. 2005), but parents and children also share similar views in various political domains (e.g., Jennings et al. 2009). So far, however, little is known about the role of other family members, such as siblings (Urbatsch 2011). Despite declines in family size throughout the last decades, 75 percent of young people under the age of 18 grow up with at least one sibling in Germany (Statistisches Bundesamt 2011). Comparable rates are also reported for young people in Great Britain, Sweden, or the US (Office for National Statistics 2016; Statistics Sweden 2016; United States Census Bureau 2011). By using a longitudinal multi-informant approach, it was therefore the goal of the present study to examine if siblings affect each other’s intergroup attitudes. We focused on two intergroup attitudes in particular: (1) intolerance towards immigrants and (2) social dominance orientation. While the former reflects evaluations of a particular social group, the latter captures an individual’s preference for hierarchy in society and thus represents a more generalized intergroup attitude, stressing the desire of dominance over low-status groups (e.g., Duckitt 2001; Pratto et al. 1994).

Political Socialization Within the Family

Most research on family influences on youth’s intergroup attitudes focused on the effects of parental intergroup attitudes (Degner and Dalege 2013; Gniewosz and Noack 2015; Jugert et al. 2016; O’Bryan et al. 2004). The similarities that have been found are often explained in terms of intergenerational transmission – a transfer of parental attitudes on their children. Referring to social learning theory (Bandura 1977), parents are considered to act as role models. Children observe parents’ attitudes in daily interactions and conversations. These perceptions, in turn, provide examples upon which children form their own attitudes and behaviors (Westholm 1999). However, the transmission of parental attitudes is certainly not the only means of influence within the family. Besides genetic endowments (cf. Alford et al. 2005), shared environmental factors can also contribute to familial similarities. Moreover, children may be affected by the attitudes of other family members, such as siblings. Because the impact of modeling is facilitated by the perceived similarity to a model (Bandura 1992), the transmission from siblings could be even stronger than transmission from parents in some cases, as siblings are closer to a child in terms of age and generational experience. By focusing on the effects of siblings’ intergroup attitudes, the present investigation aims to contribute to the rather limited body of literature on the “non-parental” political socialization within the family.

The Role of Siblings

The relationship to siblings is one of the most long-lasting and closest in life. Particularly in younger ages, siblings serve as sources of social and emotional support, advice, but also as a reference for comparison (Milevsky 2016). Accordingly, siblings were found to affect one another’s development in numerous domains, ranging from educational aspirations (e.g., Bu 2016) to risky and delinquent behaviors (Slomkowski et al. 2001). That siblings are also an important agent of political socialization is without controversy (cf. Urbatsch 2011). So far, however, studies in this field of research have primarily accounted for birth order effects; e.g., showing the links between birth order and political leadership (Andeweg and van den Berg 2003), political knowledge (Broh 1981), or political ideology (Urbatsch 2011). Thus, to date, little is known about to what extent siblings shape one another’s political views. Although empirical evidence shows that siblings share similar social attitudes, such as post-materialistic values (Kroh 2009), gender role orientations (McHale et al. 2001), or empathy (Tucker et al. 1999), we are aware of no longitudinal study that explicitly focused on political attitudes–or intergroup attitudes in particular–and therewith sheds light on directions of possible transmissions. The literature reviewed below therefore draws on results from broader socialization research on siblings (e.g., focusing on academic engagement, leisure activities, or adjustment problems), from which we, in turn, derive assumptions for the political sphere.

To explain sibling influences, different lines of explanation are discussed (cf. McHale et al. 2012). As it is the case with parental attitudes, one prominent approach draws on Bandura’s social learning theory (Bandura 1977). Siblings are assumed to affect one another through the process of observational learning (i.e., attitudinal transmission). Due to the status associated with being the older child, especially older siblings are expected to act as role models (Whiteman et al. 2007). Supporting this assumption, research showed that older siblings do, for example, shape their younger siblings’ interests and behaviors, while the reverse effect from younger to older siblings was less evident (Bu 2016; Kendler et al. 2014; Slomkowski et al. 2001).

Age and gender constellations

Following a social learning perspective, transmission should be stronger if model and observer are alike (Bandura 1992). In line with this assumption, some studies showed that sibling effects are more pronounced in same-gender than in mixed-gender dyads as well as in sibling dyads close rather than distant in age (Kendler et al. 2014; McHale et al. 2009; Slomkowski et al. 2001; Trim et al. 2006). Differential effects due to age and gender constellation are primarily attributed to variations in sibling relationship quality, such as intimacy or warmth (McHale et al. 2012). Accordingly, some studies indicate that same-gender dyads (particular female) are characterized by higher levels of warmth, closeness, and support than mixed-gender dyads (Buhrmester 1992; Campione-Barr and Smetana 2010; Tucker et al. 1997). Similar-aged siblings were also found to report higher levels of intimacy than more widely-spaced siblings (Buhrmester and Furman 1990). Yet, at the same time their relationship seems to be more competitive and conflict-laden (Buhrmester and Furman 1990; Stocker et al. 1997).

The empirical evidence on age and gender constellations, however, is not consistent and cannot be interpreted independently from the developmental period (childhood vs. adolescence/ young adulthood). More precisely, it may be assumed that particularly in adolescence siblings similar in age and/or gender experience more conflict and rivalry as they continue to establish their own sense of identity and belonging within and outside of the family (Milevsky 2016; Whiteman et al. 2007). Objective similarities might therefore also lead siblings to distance themselves from each other to reduce comparisons. Correspondingly, and contrary to the assumptions derived from social learning theory (Bandura 1977), the deidentification hypothesis (cf. Schachter et al. 1976) would state that particularly siblings who are alike (e.g., in age and/ or gender) report divergent interests and preferences (Whiteman et al. 2007). Even though deidentification processes have been addressed less frequently by research (cf. Whiteman et al. 2007), there is some empirical evidence supporting the idea of sibling differentiation (cf. Bouchey et al. 2010; Feinberg and Heatherington 2000; McHale et al. 2001; Schachter et al. 1976; Teti 2002).

Sibling effects within the family system

Families are complex social systems in which the attitudes and behaviors of individual members are linked to one another. Thus, following a family systems perspective (cf. Minuchin 1985), sibling effects cannot be completely understood apart from processes operating in other familial subsystems (e.g., parental influences on child) or dynamics at the larger family context. For instance, rather than being the result of direct influences, similarities between siblings might be driven by shared family characteristics, such as shared parental role models or socio-economic conditions (Whiteman et al. 2011). The interdependence of family processes has also been stressed with regard to perceptions of relationship quality. In line with a systemic perspective, the quality of siblings’ relationships has been shown to be related to the nature of other relationships in the family (e.g., spousal relationship, parent-child relationship), the overall family climate (e.g., Brody et al. 1992; Modry-Mandell et al. 2007), and the parental differential treatment of siblings (e.g., Shanahan et al. 2008).

Taken together, in an effort to understand (dis)-similarities among siblings, research has paid much attention to structural variables, such as age or gender constellation. Differential patterns, in turn, have mostly been attributed to the quality of siblings’ relationship. In either way, sibling effects should be considered against the backdrop of the larger family context, as for example the attitudes of other close family members – especially parents.

Current Study

To better understand the role of siblings in youth political development, we tested the conceptual models outlined in Fig. 1. In particular, we first examined longitudinal associations between older and younger siblings’ intergroup attitudes (i.e., intolerance & social dominance orientation; research question 1; Fig. 1a). Drawing on previous findings, we expected – if any – effects from older on younger siblings and not vice versa. We then determined if older and younger siblings’ age or gender moderate the transmission of attitudes (research question 2.1; Fig. 1b). Given the conflicting assumptions that can be derived from social learning and deidentification perspectives, we took an explorative approach to this question. Age- and gender-specific effects are primarily explained in terms of underlying variations in sibling relationship quality (e.g., higher relationship quality in similar-aged and same-gender dyads than in widely-spaced and mixed-gender dyads). Due to the study’s design, however, we had no specific information on the nature of siblings’ ties. Taking a family systems perspective, we therefore selected two indicators of family relationship quality which have shown to be associated with siblings’ relationship quality: family cohesion and equal treatment by parents (e.g., Modry-Mandell et al. 2007; Shanahan et al. 2008). In the case of significant moderations, we tested whether age- or gender-specific patterns were mediated by older and younger siblings’ perceptions of family relationship quality (research question 2.2; Fig. 1c). Finally, to better understand sibling effects in relation to parental effects, we examined in a last step if siblings’ intergroup attitudes remained a significant predictor after taking into account mothers’ and fathers’ intergroup attitudes (research question 3; Fig. 1d). This step also helped us to test if parental attitudes might work as a third variable resulting in spurious associations.
Fig. 1

Graphical depiction of the examined models (effects of age and gender are presented in dashed lines)

Methods

Sample

Participants were drawn from a larger longitudinal study of social-political tolerance in Germany. The original sample consisted of 1,284 adolescents, of whom 1,018 (79.7%) participants reported to have at least one sibling. Of those, in turn, 444 (43.6%) siblings completed the questionnaire at the first measurement point (summer/ fall 2003). If adolescents had two or more siblings, the sibling closest in age was approached for participation. The final subsample included 362 sibling dyads, since twin couples (n = 10) and siblings younger than 12 years of age (n = 72) were not included.1 Siblings were grouped according to birth order as being either the younger or the older child in the family.

Participants’ mean age at Time 1 was 13.61 years for younger siblings (SD = 1.39, range: 12–17) and 17.77 years for older siblings (SD = 2.92, range: 13–26). Siblings were on average 4.1 years apart in age (SD = 2.48, range: 1–12). More female than male youth participated in the study (younger siblings: 61.3% female; older siblings: 53.6% female). The sibling dyads consisted of 117 (32.3%) sister-sister dyads, 63 (17.4%) brother-brother dyads, and 182 (50.3%) mixed-gender dyads. Nearly all participants (98.9%) held German citizenship, which is characteristic for the region the data were collected in.2 Most participants (62.9%) came from families with two children, 24.9% were from families with three children, and 12.2% were from families with more than three children.

For almost all sibling dyads (96.7%), maternal (N = 348) or paternal (N = 298) data were available at Time 1. The mean age of mothers was 41.36 (SD = 5.55) years, and the mean age of the fathers was 43.54 (SD = 5.80) years. About two thirds of the parents held a degree from a lower track high school (i.e., trade or vocational track; n mothers = 229, 65.8%; n fathers = 194, 65.5%), while about one third of the parents obtained a degree from a higher track high school (Abitur) or university (n mothers = 109, 31.3%; n fathers = 90, 30.4%). Only few left school without any high school degree (n mothers = 10, 2.9%; n fathers = 12, 4.1%).

Attrition

Sibling dyads were surveyed across two measurement points, separated by approximately 1 year. 245 (67.7%) younger siblings and 160 (44.2%) older siblings completed questionnaires at both time points. Little’s MCAR test (Little 1988) including all study variables was significant for intolerance; χ²(348) = 448.14, p = .013; and marginally significant for social dominance orientation; χ²(458) = 499.85, p = .086; suggesting that data were not missing completely at random. Follow-up analyses showed that missingness was significantly related with older as well as younger siblings’ age; r older = −.27, p < .001; r younger = −.20, p < .001; indicating that older youth were less likely to participate at Time 2. All other study variables were not related to missingsness (all rs ≤ .07, all ps ≥ .236). To prevent a further reduction of the initial sample size, missingness was addressed using a full information maximum likelihood approach (maximum likelihood estimation with robust standard errors, MLR).

Measures

The complete item wordings of the measures presented below are summarized in the Appendix. Unless stated differently, all items were rated on a scale ranging from 1 (no agreement at all) to 4 (total agreement).

Intolerance

Intolerance towards immigrants was assessed with six items (Balke et al. 2002; Dicke et al. 2000; Kracke and Held 1994). The instrument focused on negative attitudes towards immigration and included perceptions of social and economic threat (e.g., “Immigrants increase the crime rate”; “Immigrants take away the jobs from people who are born in Germany”) as well tendencies for segregation (“Immigrants should choose their spouses among their own people only”). Cronbach’s alpha coefficients indicated good internal consistencies (younger siblings: α T1 = .83, α T2 = .86; older siblings: α T1 = .86, α T2 = .88; mothers: α = .84; fathers: α = .85).

Social dominance orientation

Social dominance orientation captures participants’ general belief whether some people are inherently superior to others and whether they approve of group inequalities (Pratto et al. 1994). Participants first read a short introduction highlighting that there are different groups in a society (women and men, Germans and other nationals, Thurigians and Swabians3). Afterwards they were asked to indicate their agreement to four statements (e.g., “It is okay if some groups have greater chances in life than others”; Kämpfe 2002; Sidanius and Pratto 1999). Internal consistencies were acceptable for younger siblings (α T1 = .62, α T2 = .68) and satisfactory for older siblings (α T1 = .73, α T2 = .74), mothers (α = .72), and fathers (α = .77).

Family relationship quality

Both younger and older siblings completed items describing perceptions of family cohesion (4 items; e.g., “In our family we feel close to one another”; Schneewind and Weiß 1996) and equal treatment by parents (3 items; e.g., “My mother/father treats me and my sibling fairly”; Noack 2005) at Time 1. Internal consistencies were satisfactory for perceptions of cohesion (younger siblings: α = .88, older siblings: α  = .88) and equal treatment by parents (younger siblings: α = .88, older siblings: α = .89).

SES

Socio-economic status was captured as the mean of parents’ highest educational degree (0 = no educational degree, 1 = 8 years of schooling, 2 = 9 years of schooling, 3 = 10 years of schooling, 4 = 12 years of schooling, 5 = university degree). The correlation between mothers’ and fathers’ education was .43, p < .001.

Finally, gender was coded as 0 (male) and 1 (female) and age was coded in years. Table 1 summarizes the zero-order correlations between all study variables.
Table 1

Zero-order correlations between all study variables

  

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

1

YS Intolerance T1

                

2

YS Intolerance T2

.60**

               

3

OS Intolerance T1

.42**

.40**

              

4

OS Intolerance T2

.30**

.37**

.73**

             

5

Mother Intolerance T1

.42**

.39**

.54**

.46**

            

6

Father Intolerance T1

.29**

.42**

.43**

.38**

.64**

           

7

YS SDO T1

.52**

.33**

.23**

.28**

.21**

.09

          

8

YS SDO T2

.40**

.61**

.29**

.34**

.24**

.23**

.45**

         

9

OS SDO T1

.24**

.31**

.53**

.42**

.33**

.23**

.20**

.22**

        

10

OS SDO T2

.15+

.22*

.46**

.63**

.29**

.20*

.19*

.26**

.50**

       

11

Mother SDO T1

.18**

.21**

.27**

.31**

.50**

.34**

.21**

.16*

.17**

.21**

      

12

Father SDO T1

.11+

.25**

.23**

.33**

.31**

.49**

.08

.12

.17**

.23**

.24**

     

13

YS Cohesion T1

−.06

−.03

.02

−.03

−.02

.00

−.12*

−.05

−.11*

−.13+

−.03

.00

    

14

OS Cohesion T1

−.07

−.01

.01

.09

−.01

−.01

−.06

.05

−.05

.02

−.04

−.08

.32**

   

15

YS Treatment T1

−.11*

−.02

−.05

.00

−.09+

.02

−.10*

.04

−.08

−.08

−.12*

−.02

.49**

.19**

  

16

OS Treatment T1

−.08

.11+

−.10+

.06

−.04

−.01

−.05

.10

−.18*

.04

−.05

−.02

.13*

.40*

.29*

 

17

YS Age

−.05

−.01

−.06

−.01

.03

.07

−.08

−.09

−.08

.02

−.04

−.01

−.21**

.06

−.10*

.09

18

OS Age

.02

.04

.08

.16*

.17*

.14*

−.01

−.08

.02

.06

.11*

.04

−.13*

.06

−.03

.09

19

YS Gender

−.12*

−.11+

.03

.07

.07

.09

−.19**

−.23**

−.01

.01

.10+

.04

−.05

−.03

−.10*

−.05

20

OS Gender

−.01

−.19*

−.11*

−.16*

.02

−.09

−.01

−.12+

−.05

−.20*

.02

−.02

−.06

.08

−.02

−.08

21

SES

−.05

−.06

−.05

−.08

−.11*

−.06

−.11*

.00

−.02

.06

−.13*

−.01

−.07

−.05

−.09

−.06

SDO social dominance orientation, OS older sibling, YS younger sibling

+p < .10, *p < .05, **p < .01

Analytic Procedure

We conducted latent cross-lagged panel analyses in Mplus 7.2 (Muthén and Muthén 2012-2015) to examine longitudinal associations between older and younger siblings’ intergroup attitudes (research question 1). Age and gender of both siblings and SES were used as covariates predicting attitudes at Time 2.

Next, latent variable interactions were specified to test whether the cross-lagged effects of siblings’ intergroup attitudes were moderated by (older & younger siblings’) age and gender (research question 2.1). Interactions were examined separately for age and gender, yet simultaneously for both cross-lagged effects between older and younger siblings’ intergroup attitudes. Significant interaction effects were probed using simple slope analyses to examine effects across different levels of the moderator variables (Aiken and West 1991).

In the case of significant moderations by age or gender, family cohesion and equal treatment by parents were included as additional variables in the model. We employed mediated moderation analyses as described by Gaudreau et al. (2016) to examine whether age- or gender-specific patterns were mediated by these two aspects of family relationship quality (research question 2.2). The mediating effects of older and younger siblings’ perceptions of family relationship quality were thereby tested one-by-one. Age, gender, and SES were considered as covariates predicting attitudes at Time 2.

In a final step, mothers’ as well as fathers’ intergroup attitudes at Time 1 were added to the model and set to predict siblings’ attitudes at Time 2 to examine whether main and moderation effects remained significant when controlling for parental effects (research question 3). Again, we included age, gender, and SES as covariates.

Results

Measurement Models

To examine relationships at a latent level, while keeping the models at a limited amount of complexity, we constructed item parcels. Both intergroup attitudes were measured by two parcels, whereby items were allocated to parcels according to their factor loadings so that each parcel had a similar relation to the latent construct (cf. Little et al. 2002). Measurement models were run separately for intolerance and social dominance orientation and included older as well as younger siblings’ intergroup attitudes at Time 1 and 2. Correlations instead of structural paths were estimated between the latent constructs. Both models fit the data well; intolerance: χ²(14,N = 362) = 21.83, p = .082, CFI = .993, TLI = .986, RMSEA = .039, SRMR = .024; social dominance orientation: χ²(14,N = 362) = 17.00, p = .207, CFI = .993, TLI = .986, RMSEA = .028, SRMR = .028. The results further showed that models assuming strong (scalar) factorial invariance across time did not fit the data significantly worse than models assuming weak (metric) factorial invariance and were therefore maintained; ∆χ²(2) ≤ 3.08, ps ≥ .214.

Sibling Effects and Moderations by Age and Gender

Intolerance

The baseline model, predicting younger and older siblings’ intolerance at Time 2 by their respective Time 1 assessment, while controlling for the effects of age, gender, and SES, fit the data well; χ²(34,N = 362) = 51.26, p = .029, CFI = .986, TLI = .972, RMSEA = .037, SRMR = .023. Whereas older siblings’ intolerance had a significant effect on younger siblings’ attitudes, younger siblings had no effect on their older siblings. There were no significant effects of age, gender, or SES, except for the effect of older siblings’ gender on younger siblings’ intolerance, indicating that participants with older brothers reported more intolerant attitudes at Time 2 than participants with older sisters (see Table 2).
Table 2

Sibling (and parental) effects on intolerance (INTOL)

Predictors

 

OS Intol T2

YS Intol T2

OS Intol T2

YS Intol T2

Baseline model

 

YS Intol T1

.00 (.08)

.58 (.09)**

−.02 (.09)

.54 (.10)**

  

[−0.16, 0.16]

[0.40, 0.75]

[−0.19, 0.16]

[0.36, 0.73]

 

OS Intol T1

.80 (.09)**

.20 (.08)*

.79 (.10)**

.11 (.10)

  

[0.63, 0.97]

[0.04, 0.35]

[0.59, 1.00]

[−0.08, 0.31]

 

SES

−.02 (.06)

−.04 (.04)

−.01 (.06)

−.03 (.04)

  

[−0.13, 0.09]

[−0.12, 0.05]

[−0.12, 0.09]

[−0.11, 0.05]

 

OS Age

.00 (.02)

.01 (.01)

.00 (.02)

.00 (.01)

  

[−0.04, 0.04]

[−0.02, 0.04]

[−0.04, 0.04]

[−0.02, 0.03]

 

YS Age

.02 (.06)

.03 (.03)

.02 (.05)

.01 (.03)

  

[−0.07, 0.11]

[−0.03, 0.09]

[−0.07, 0.12]

[−0.05, 0.08]

 

OS Gender

−.08 (.10)

−.19 (.08)*

−.11 (.10)

−.17 (.08)*

  

[−0.27, 0.12]

[−0.35, −0.03]

[−0.39, 0.09]

[−0.34, 0.02]

 

YS Gender

.09 (.09)

−.08 (.08)

.10 (.09)

−.14 (.08)

  

[−0.09, 0.28]

[−0.24, 0.09]

[−0.08, 0.29]

[−0.30, 0.06]

 

Mother Intol T1

.19 (.18)

−.08 (.16)

    

[−0.16, 0.55]

[−0.39, 0.23]

 

Father Intol T1

−.21 (.17)

.29 (.12)*

    

[−0.53, 0.12]

[0.06, 0.52]

Moderation by age

M1.1

YS/OS Intol T1*

.03 (.02)

.04 (.02)

.02 (.02)

.03 (.02)

 

OS age

[−0.02, 0.08]

[−0.01, 0.08]

[−0.02, 0.07]

[−0.01, 0.07]

M1.2

YS/OS Intol T1*

.11 (.07)

.00 (.05)

.10 (.07)

−.01 (.05)

 

YS age

[−.02, 0.24]

[−0.09, 0.10]

[−0.03, 0.23]

[−0.10, 0.09]

M1.3

YS/OS Intol T1*

−.02 (.03)

.01 (.02)

−.02 (.03)

.01 (.02)

 

OS Age * YS Age

[−0.07, 0.03]

[−0.04, 0.05]

[−0.06, 0.03]

[−0.03, 0.04]

Moderation by gender

M2.1

YS/OS Intol T1*

.17 (.17)

.19 (.12)

.18 (.17)

.17 (.11)

 

OS Gender

[−0.16, 0.49]

[−0.04, 0.44]

[−0.15, 0.51]

[−0.05, 0.39]

M2.2

YS/OS Intol T1*

−.04 (.16)

.28 (.12)*

−.03 (.16)

.28 (.12)*

 

YS Gender

[−0.34, 0.27]

[0.04, 0.52]

[−0.34, 0.28]

[0.04, 0.52]

M2.3

YS/OS Intol T1* OS Age * YS

.32 (.35)

.38 (.25)

.27 (.35)

.35 (.25)

 

Gender

[−0.36, 1.01]

[−0.87, 0.12]

[−0.43, 0.96]

[−0.84, 0.15]

Note: The table summarizes unstandardized parameter estimates with standard errors in parentheses and 95% confidence intervals in brackets. Interactions effects were examined one by one and therefore in separate models (M1.1–M2.3). For reasons of brevity main effects are only presented for the model without interaction terms (baseline models)

OS older sibling, YS younger sibling

*p < .05, **p < .01, ‒ = not assessed

Tests for moderation4 revealed that neither the effect of older nor of younger siblings’ intolerance was moderated by older or younger siblings’ age. There were also no significant three-way-interactions between older and younger siblings’ age and older/younger siblings’ intolerance (see Table 2). Results for gender showed no significant interactions between the effects of older or younger siblings' intolerance and older siblings’ gender. While there was also no significant interaction between younger siblings’ intolerance and younger siblings’ gender, the effect of older siblings was moderated by younger siblings’ gender. Simple slope analyses showed that the effect of older siblings’ intolerance was only significant among younger sisters (B = .29, SE = .09, p = .001), but not younger brothers (B = .01, SE = .12, p = .952). There were no significant three-way-interactions between older and younger siblings’ gender and older/ younger siblings’ intolerance at Time 1 (see Table 2).

Social dominance orientation

The baseline model for social dominance orientation also fit the data well; χ²(34,N = 362) = 43.19, p = .134, CFI = .986, TLI = .971, RMSEA = .027, SRMR = .028. Beyond the 1-year-stability, however, neither older nor younger siblings’ attitudes at Time 1 had a significant effect. Of the examined covariates only gender predicted younger siblings’ social dominance orientation. The effect was negative, indicating that younger brothers reported higher levels of social dominance orientation at Time 2 than younger sisters.

We then added latent interaction terms4 between (older/ younger) siblings’ social dominance orientation and age to the model. While there were no significant moderations by older siblings’ age, the effect of younger on older siblings’ social dominance orientation was found to vary due to younger siblings’ age. Follow-up-analyses showed that the effect of younger siblings was not significant if younger siblings’ age was one SD below the sample mean (B = .05, SE = .15, p = .770), yet significant if younger siblings’ age was one SD above the sample mean (B = .69, SE = .27, p = .011). There were no significant three-way-interactions between older and younger siblings’ age and older/ younger siblings’ social dominance orientation.

Results for gender showed no significant moderation of the effects of younger or older siblings’ social dominance orientation by older siblings’ gender. Yet again, the effect of older siblings on younger siblings’ social dominance orientation was found to differ by younger siblings’ gender. Simple slope analyses showed that older siblings only had a significant effect on their younger sisters (B = .34, SE = .11, p = .001), but not on their younger brothers (B = −.13, SE = .18, p = .451). There were no significant three-way-interactions between older and younger siblings’ gender and older/ younger siblings’ social dominance orientation (see Table 3).
Table 3

Sibling (and parental) effects on social dominance orientation (SDO)

Predictors

 

OS SDO T2

YS SDO T2

OS SDO T2

YS SDO T2

Baseline model

 

YS SDO T1

.19 (.14)

.64 (.15)**

.11 (.17)

.61 (.15)**

  

[−0.08, 0.47]

[0.34, 0.94]

[−0.23, 0.45]

[0.31, 0.92]

 

OS SDO T1

.64 (.10)**

.16 (.10)

.60 (.13)**

.16 (.09)

  

[0.41, 0.88]

[−0.03, 0.36]

[0.35, 0.85]

[−0.03, 0.35]

 

SES

.05 (.06)

.02 (.05)

.05 (.06)

.02 (.05)

  

[−0.07, 0.18]

[−0.09, 0.13]

[−0.07, 0.17]

[−0.08, 0.12]

 

OS Age

−.01 (.02)

−.01 (.01)

−.01 (.02)

−.01 (.01)

  

[−0.04, 0.03]

[−0.04, 0.02]

[−0.05, 0.03]

[−0.04, 0.02]

 

YS Age

.04 (.05)

−.01 (.03)

.04 (.03)

−.03 (.01)

  

[−0.05, 0.13]

[−0.07, 0.05]

[−0.04, 0.02]

[−0.07, 0.04]

 

OS Gender

−.17 (.12)

−.11 (.07)

−.13 (.15)

−.10 (.07)

  

[−0.39, 0.06]

[−0.24, 0.03]

[−0.43, 0.17]

[−0.23, 0.03]

 

YS Gender

.01 (.09)

−.19 (.08)*

.00 (.10)

−.20 (.08)*

  

[−0.18, 0.20]

[−0.34., −0.04]

[−0.19, 0.19]

[−0.35, −0.04]

 

Mother SDO T1

.11 (.26)

.07 (.12)

    

[−0.38, 0.62]

[−0.17, 0.32]

 

Father SDO T1

.13 (.14)

.04 (.10)

    

[−0.15, 0.41]

[−0.14, 0.23]

Moderation by age

M1.1

YS/OS SDO T1*

.01 (.03)

.03 (.03)

.01 (.03)

.02 (.03)

 

OS Age

[−0.05, 0.07]

[−0.03, 0.09]

[−0.05, 0.06]

[−0.04, 0.08]

M1.2

YS/OS SDO T1*

.32 (.16)*

−.04 (.06)

.38 (.15)*

−.02 (.06)

 

YS Age

[0.01, 0.63]

[−0.16, 0.08]

[0.09, 0.67]

[−0.13, 0.09]

M1.3

YS/OS SDO T1*

−.05 (.04)

.02 (.02)

−.03 (.03)

.02 (.02)

 

OS Age * YS Age

[−0.12, 0.03]

[−0.03, 0.06]

[−0.09, 0.03]

[−0.03, 0.06]

Moderation by gender

M2.1

YS/OS SDO T1*

−.38 (.33)

−.13 (.17)

−.36 (.51)

.17 (.24)

 

OS Gender

[−1.04, 0.27]

[−0.47, 0.19]

[−0.56, 0.86]

[−0.64 0.31]

M2.2

YS/OS SDO T1*

.34 (.23)

.47 (.21)*

.32 (.23)

.46 (.19)*

 

YS Gender

[−0.11, 0.79]

[0.06, 0.89]

[−0.12, 0.76]

[0.10, 0.83]

M2.3

YS/OS SDO T1*

−.23 (.29)

.10 (.49)

−.76 (.93)

.19 (.68)

 

OS Age * YS Gender

[−0.33, 0.79]

[−0.86, 1.07]

[−1.07, 2.61]

[−1.14, 1.53]

Note: The table summarizes unstandardized parameter estimates with standard errors in parentheses and 95% confidence intervals in brackets. Interactions effects were examined one by one and therefore in separate models (M1.1–M2.3). For reasons of brevity main effects are only presented for the model without interaction terms (baseline models)

OS older sibling, YS younger sibling

*p < .05, **p < .01, ‒ = not assessed

Relationship quality

In the case of significant moderations by age or gender, older and younger siblings’ perceptions of family cohesion and equal treatment by parents at Time 1 were added to the model. Mediated moderation analyses were employed to test for indirect effects of the age/gender*sibling attitude-interaction via perceptions of family relationship quality on youth’s intergroup attitudes at Time 2. Results showed that neither younger nor older siblings’ perceptions of family relationship quality mediated the age- and gender-specific patterns. More precisely, concerning the prediction of younger siblings’ intolerance at Time 2, the results showed that the direct effects of the interaction between younger siblings’ gender and older siblings’ attitudes remained significant (all Bs ≥ .23, SEs ≤ .11, ps ≤ .035; all 95% CIs = [0.02, 0.47]), while the indirect effects of the gender*sibling attitude-interaction via perceptions of family relationship quality did not differ significantly from zero (all Bs ≤ .01, SEs ≤ .02, ps ≥ .643; all 95% CIs = [−0.03, 0.02]). A similar pattern was found for the gender*sibling attitude-interaction on younger siblings’ social dominance orientation at Time 2 (direct effects: all Bs ≥ .37, SEs ≤ .15, ps ≤ .007; all 95% CIs = [0.10, 0.71]; indirect effects: all Bs ≤ .02, SEs ≤ .03, ps ≥ .299; all 95% CIs = [−0.06, 0.04]). Similarly, the moderating effect of age on the association between younger and older siblings’ social dominance orientation was also not mediated by perceptions of family relationship quality (direct effects: all Bs ≥ .35, SEs ≤ .19, ps ≤ .072; all 95% CIs ≥ [−0.04, 0.78]; indirect effects: all Bs ≤ .01, SEs ≤ .01, ps ≥ .406; all 95% CIs ≤ [−0.02, 0.02]).

Sibling Effects in Relation to Parental Intergroup Attitudes

Intolerance

The model for intolerance, which additionally examined mothers’ and fathers’ Time 1 attitudes on older and younger siblings’ intolerance at Time 2 fit the data well; χ²(69,N = 362) = 109.95, p = .001, CFI = .979, TLI = .962, RMSEA = .040, SRMR = .025. Beyond the 1-year stability, only fathers’ intolerance had an effect on younger siblings’ intolerance at Time 2. While there were no further parental effects, the effect of older on younger siblings’ intolerance was also no longer significant when parental attitudes were taken into account. Subsequent analyses, however, showed that all interactions between (older and younger) siblings’ intolerant attitudes and age/ gender remained significant when parental attitudes were added to the model, including the effect of older siblings on their younger sisters (see Table 2).

Social dominance orientation

The model for social dominance orientation, which accounted for siblings as well as parental effects, also fit the data well; χ²(69,N = 362) = 107.19, p = .002, CFI = .963, TLI = .933, RMSEA = .039, SRMR = .031. Beyond the 1-year stability, neither siblings’ nor mothers’ or fathers’ attitudes predicted changes in youth’s social dominance orientation at Time 2. Yet again, beyond parental effects, all interactions between siblings’ attitudes at Time 1 and age or gender remained significant (see Table 3).

Discussion

While previous research showed that siblings affect one another’s interests and behaviors in a variety of ways, little is known about the role of siblings in youth’s political development. Drawing on longitudinal data of 362 sibling dyads, the present research aimed to narrow these gaps in the literature. We first examined whether we can find associations between younger and older siblings’ intergroup attitudes over time (intolerance, social dominance orientation; research question 1). The results showed that older siblings’ attitudes had an effect on younger siblings’ intolerance, yet not social dominance orientation, while younger siblings’ attitudes had no significant effect. Based on theoretical considerations and previous findings within the field of externalizing behaviors (Slomkowski et al. 2001), empathy (Tucker et al. 1999), or academic development (Bu 2016), we had expected to find stronger effects from older siblings who are more likely to act as role models reinforcing young people’s attitudes and behaviors. We then examined whether effects differed according to younger as well as older siblings’ age and gender (research question 2.1). The results pointed to significant moderations, which can be summarized in two main patterns: First, older siblings’ intergroup attitudes (both intolerance and social dominance orientation) were only found to affect their younger sisters’ attitudes, but not their younger brothers. Second, even though younger siblings’ intergroup attitudes had no significant main effect on older siblings, our results indicated that younger siblings’ social dominance orientation was related to their older siblings’ social dominance orientation with increasing age of the younger sibling. All effects were positive, indicating that siblings rather take on than de-identify themselves from each other’s intergroup attitudes. We will discuss both patterns in the following.

Age- and Gender-Related Patterns

Concerning the role of gender, a social learning perspective suggests that the transmission of attitudes between siblings may primarily be expected in same-gender dyads (cf. Bandura 1977). Our results, in contrast, indicated that both older brothers’ as well as older sisters’ intergroup attitudes predicted younger sisters’ attitudes, and these effects remained significant when aspects of family relationship quality (family cohesion, equal treatment by parents) were taken into account. At the same time, younger brothers’ attitudes were not affected by the attitudes of their older siblings. One possible explanation is that sisters in general, and younger sisters in particular, seek for more support from their older siblings. Accordingly, Tucker et al. (1997) showed that adolescent girls reported to be more satisfied with their sibling relationship, to receive more advice, and to be more influenced by their sibling than adolescent boys. Stronger effects of older siblings on younger sisters were also reported by Whiteman et al. (2007), but only for sport activities and not in other areas, such as interest in arts or risky behaviors. As these findings thus indicate, domain-specific characteristics need to be taken into account as well.

The differential effects of older siblings on younger sisters and brothers can also be understood in terms of normative gender-typed behaviors and related power issues in sibling dyads. Previous studies suggest, for example, that girls display more enabling styles of interaction (i.e., expressing agreement and acknowledging another’s perspective; Maccoby 1990) and are more submissive in interpersonal conflicts than boys (Dunn and Herrera 1997). Focusing specifically on children sibling dyads, Howe et al. (2002) showed that younger brothers, compared to younger sisters, were more active and assertive in sibling conflicts (e.g., by using adversarial strategies and negotiating resolutions). The authors suggest that, even for younger siblings, being male may provide an additional status in sibling exchanges. Thus, it is easier for younger brothers to challenge their older sisters, while younger sisters are often expected to adopt more subordinate roles in sibling interactions. Our results are in line with these gender-based normative expectations as girls tended to acquiesce with older siblings’ attitudes, while boys did not. Moreover, this tendency might be reinforced by the fact that traditional politics is often seen as a male domain and boys feel more confident in their political knowledge, even though the actual gender differences in knowledge are not that consistent (Alozie et al. 2003; Kerr et al. 2010). Therefore, younger brothers, compared to younger sisters, might feel sufficiently qualified in political issues and be less open to the influences of their older siblings.

The second pattern of results concerns the moderating effect showing that with increasing age, younger siblings’ social dominance orientation had an effect on their older siblings. Based on previous research showing effects from older to younger siblings and not vice versa, this effect was not expected. However, research that explicitly examined effects of younger siblings and potential moderators thereof is scarce (Williams et al. 2007). As sibling relationships become more egalitarian throughout adolescence and young adulthood (cf. Buhrmester and Furman 1990), reciprocal processes between younger and older siblings may become more visible with increasing age as well. Accordingly, De Jesús (2016) showed that younger siblings affected their older siblings’ educational aspirations in middle/late, but not in early adolescence. Besides changes in relationship structure, younger siblings’ identity development may also contribute to more reciprocal sibling processes with increasing age. Adolescence is a critical time for identity development, which also applies to the development of a political identity (Sherrod et al. 2002). Hence, it may be speculated that in the course of searching for and consolidating their own political identity, younger siblings increasingly start to initiate discussions at home, which, in turn, could shape their own political opinions as well as those of other family members (cf. McDevitt and Chaffee 2002). It needs to be pointed out, however, that we found this pattern only for social dominance orientation and not for intolerance. Rank-order stabilities indicated that youth’s intolerant attitudes were more consolidated than their social dominance orientation (cf. Table 1). This pattern is in line with results showing that evaluations of specific social groups crystallize early in life and are also more stable than more abstract orientations (Sears and Levy 2003). Hence, it is possible that once consolidated, older siblings’ intolerant attitudes were less susceptible to influences. Overall, more research is needed to examine in how far this assumption of bi-directional processes with younger siblings’ increasing age generalizes to a broader set of political attitudes and behaviors.

Sibling Effects and Further Family Characteristics

All moderating effects between siblings’ intergroup attitudes and age/gender remained significant after controlling for younger as well as older siblings’ perceptions of family cohesion and equal treatment by parents (cf. research question 2.2). Hence, while we found no indication that the differential effects were primarily driven by aspects of family relationship quality, conclusions should be drawn with caution. Our measures, which did not explicitly assess dynamics within sibling dyads, pose a limitation. Future studies should therefore examine a broader array of sibling relationship characteristics, such as closeness, perceived support, or subjective importance of siblings as source of political information.

In our final models, mothers’ and fathers’ intergroup attitudes were included as additional covariates (research question 3). Results showed that the moderations with age or gender were not affected by parental attitudes. From all possible associations between parental and older/ younger siblings’ attitudes over time, however, only one reached statistical significance (i.e., the effect of fathers on younger siblings’ intolerance). Since zero-order correlations for intolerance and social dominance orientation pointed to considerable levels of agreement between all family members (cf. Table 1), we cannot rule out that this finding was also caused by collinearities among the predictors. Moreover, the lack of parental effects among older siblings might as well be related to the examined age period as in young adulthood, in particular, youth become less susceptible to the effects of parents’ socio-political attitudes (Vollebergh et al. 2001). Finally, we have to note that parental attitudes were primarily considered as control variables. Accounting for further mechanism that have been found to strengthen parental influences, such as perceived closeness or levels of agreement among mothers and fathers (e.g., Jennings et al. 2009), was therefore beyond the scope of the current study.

Besides siblings’ and parents’ intergroup attitudes, we controlled for the effects of SES in all our model estimations. Contrary to previous findings (e.g., Jugert et al. 2016), however, SES had no significant effect. Also, cross-sectional associations were either small or not significant (cf. Table 1). One possible explanation might be the way SES was operationalized, i.e., looking only at parental education. Considering a broader set of socio-economic indicators may therefore reveal a more differentiated pattern. It may also contribute to a better understanding of similarities between family members which are not caused by attitudinal transmission, but selected aspects of the family’s socio-economic situation. That is, irrespective of parents’ or siblings’ openly expressed opinions, shared environmental factors, such as experiencing financial hardship or living in certain neighborhood areas, might as well promote agreements among family members (cf. social-milieu-pathway; Dalton 1982).

Strengths and Limitations of the Current Study

One strength of the study is its longitudinal multi-informant design involving different family members as it represents a relatively stringent test of the attitudinal transmission between siblings and therewith provides new insights into the non-parental aspect of political socialization in the family. Due to the design, however, not all participants were available at all measurement points. Attrition was particularly high among older siblings at Time 2. To account for the potential impact of data attrition, missing values were taken into account in the model estimation. Although this is a highly recommended method to deal with missingness (Jeličič et al. 2009), a possible bias due to data attrition cannot be completely ruled out. On a related note, the data result from a project that was originally not designed as sibling study and therefore further information on the nature and quality of the sibling relationship was not available.

Moreover, it should be acknowledged that very few youth in our sample reported extreme intergroup attitudes and ideologies. It is therefore questionable whether the revealed patterns applied to them. For instance, radicalization of younger brothers by their older brothers, not implied by our results, has been described with regard to youth right-wing extremism (Kleeberg–Niepage 2012) or jihadism (Milla et al. 2013). Hence, sibling dynamics may differ in the socialization of non-extreme vs. extreme intergroup attitudes.

Finally, the study was based on families living in the federal state of Thuringia in former East Germany, which may raise the question of representativeness. Certainly, given the characteristics of the prevailing historical as well as political environment the young people grew up in, possible macro-contextual influences cannot be ruled out. For instance, contextual patterns of social dominance orientation are closely (and negatively) related to the presence of egalitarian cultural values (cf. Fischer et al. 2012), which might be more pronounced in post-communist societies. Besides, in contrast to the Western part of Germany with its longer history of immigration, former East Germany is not only characterized by low levels of cultural diversity, but people there were also found to report more negative attitudes towards immigration (Quent 2012). In addition, our data were collected in 2003 and 2004, a time when the European Union was enlarged by the accession of new member states, including Eastern European countries neighboring Germany. It is therefore possible that the levels of intolerance towards immigration and social dominance orientation were temporarily affected by people’s concerns about free movement of persons and labor from Eastern Europe. More research which includes young people from other regions is therefore needed to test for the generalizability of our findings.

Conclusion

In times of globalization and increasingly diverse societies, the interaction and respect towards people from different national, cultural, or religious backgrounds is of particular importance. Youth is a formative period for the development of a coherent political belief system and sense of political identity (Sherrod et al. 2002), which also applies to the evaluation of different social groups (i.e., intergroup attitudes). This development is closely tied to young people’s experiences in daily life settings, such as the family. Besides parents, who have traditionally been at the core of political socialization research, the role of siblings has received scant scholarly attention. As our results show, siblings do matter as an agent of political socialization. While effects of older siblings were only prevalent among younger sisters and not younger brothers, we found indication that younger siblings can also have an effect on their older siblings’ intergroup attitudes. Our results can be interpreted against the backdrop of the existing socialization literature, yet they also point to the necessity to gain a deepened understanding of the processes underlying the identified age- and gender-related patterns. Families are complex systems and therefore characteristics of the examined age group, the considered attitude or behavior, the nature of familial relationships, as well as shared environmental factors need to be taken into account in order to draw generalized conclusions concerning the role of siblings in youth’s political development.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    In order to be included in the analyses, siblings’ age was required to be 12 years or higher. We chose this cut-off, since the main questionnaire was developed for adolescents between the age of 12 and 17. Particularly more abstract intergroup attitudes (such as social dominance orientation) could therefore not be reliably assessed with the applied instruments among considerably younger participants.

  2. 2.

    The data were collected in the federal state of Thuringia in Germany. In terms of cultural diversity, this region of Germany is fairly homogeneous. According to federal statistics, 3.5 percent of the overall population has an immigrant background (compared to 19.2% at the national level). About half of the immigrant population, in turn, does not hold German citizenship (Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik, 2011). Excluding participants who did not hold German citizenship from the analyses, however, did not alter the results of the present study.

  3. 3.

    Thurigians and Swabians are inhabitants of regions within Germany (Thuringia, located in the mid-eastern part of Germany, and Swabia, located in the western part of Germany).

  4. 4.

    Structural equation modeling (SEM) with latent variable interactions in Mplus is based on the Type = random and integration algorithm and therefore does not provide formal indicators of model fit, such as chi-square-value, CFI, TLI, RMSEA, or SRMR.

Notes

Funding

This research was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG, FOR 481, No 213/9-4) by financial aid given to the third author. The work of the second author was supported by the Grant Agency of the Masaryk University (Grant No MUNI/M/1748/2014).

Authors' Contributions

K.E., J.S., and P.N. conceived of the study. K. E. participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript. K. E. and J. S. conducted the analyses for the study. J.S. also drafted parts of the manuscript and participated in the interpretation of the data. P.N. participated in the design, data collection, and participated in the interpretation of the data. All authors read, edited, and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10964_2017_713_MOESM1_ESM.docx (72 kb)
Supplementary Information

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyFriedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Research on Children, Youth and FamilyMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic

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