Family Emotional Climate and Sibling Relationship Quality: Influences on Behavioral Problems and Adaptation in Preschool-Aged Children

Abstract

We examined the impact of family emotional climate and sibling relationship quality on behavioral problems and adaptation in preschool-aged children. Participants were 63 mothers with a preschool-aged child enrolled in a Southern Arizona Head Start Program. Siblings were identified as children closest in age to target child. Mothers of predominantly Mexican descent (95%) participated in home interviews during the Fall and Spring of the year children entered center-based programs. Sibling relationship quality (warmth, agonism/competition) was proposed to predict children’s adjustment (behavioral problems and adaptation) longitudinally. Results indicate that after controlling for child characteristics (temperament, child gender, birth order) and after accounting for family characteristics (family emotional expressiveness, child exposure to interparental conflict, and parental agreement on childrearing), sibling warmth made a significant and unique contribution to child adjustment as reported by mothers and teachers six months later. Findings are consistent with existing research indicating that sibling relationships impact children’s adjustment and shape young children’s lives in meaningful and marked ways. Moreover, these associations were found with an understudied sample of young children of predominantly Mexican descent in low-income families, and thus make an important contribution to knowledge in the field.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by an ACYF University-Head Start Partnership grant, number 90-YD-0067. We greatly appreciate the contributions of the many faculty members, staff members, graduate students, and undergraduate students involved in this project, with special thanks to Jeong Jin Yu, M.S. We would also like to thank the many families whose participation helped to make this research possible.

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Correspondence to Kerri L. Modry-Mandell.

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Modry-Mandell, K.L., Gamble, W.C. & Taylor, A.R. Family Emotional Climate and Sibling Relationship Quality: Influences on Behavioral Problems and Adaptation in Preschool-Aged Children. J Child Fam Stud 16, 59–71 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-006-9068-3

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Keywords

  • Sibling relationship quality
  • Family emotional expressiveness
  • Child exposure to interparental conflict
  • Parental agreement on childrearing
  • Child adjustment