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Why Can’t I Be More Like My Brother? The Role and Correlates of Sibling Social Comparison Orientation

Abstract

Siblings play an important role in relational and individual development throughout adolescence and beyond through several mechanisms. Central to this role and the mechanisms of sibling influence is the notion that siblings provide a constant and meaningful frame of reference for social comparison. This study examined the role of sibling social comparison orientation, or the tendency of siblings to compare themselves to one another, on youths’ depressive symptoms and family relationships, both directly and by moderating links with parental differential treatment. Participants included 338 youth (M age = 18.34, SD = 1.03; 52 % female). Using hierarchical ordinary least squares regression, we found that a higher sibling social comparison orientation was linked with more depressive symptoms, warmer sibling relationships, and more sibling conflict. Additionally, sibling social comparison orientation moderated links of parental differential treatment with depressive symptoms and prosocial behavior toward family members such that effects were more salient for those with a high comparison orientation. The discussion focuses on the role of sibling comparison in the ways that siblings influence one another’s development.

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Authors’ Contributions

AJ contributed to this study by working on the conceptualization, analysis, and writing of the manuscript. AP helped with the literature search, data analysis and writing. LPW directed data collection and participated in manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to Alexander C. Jensen.

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Jensen, A.C., Pond, A.M. & Padilla-Walker, L.M. Why Can’t I Be More Like My Brother? The Role and Correlates of Sibling Social Comparison Orientation. J Youth Adolescence 44, 2067–2078 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0327-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0327-8

Keywords

  • Siblings
  • Social comparison
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Differential treatment
  • Family relationships