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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2015 Abstracts

When Mom and Dad Fight: What do Brother and Sister Do?

Catherine Cragun, Brigham Young University

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Sibling relationships play a critical role in healthy development throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood (Dunn, 1983; Jensen, Whiteman, Fingerman, and Birditt, 2013; Stocker, Lanthier, and Furman, 1997). The quality of the relationship matters as well: a predominantly warm relationship is linked to less antisocial behavior, yet if there is mostly conflict it can be linked to depression and anxiety (Padilla-Walker, Harper, and Jensen, 2010). While the influence of the sibling relationship is well documented, much less is known about what influences it. Marital conflict is one likely deterrent to positive sibling relationships (Stocker and Youngblade, 1999), but there has been little attention to the effects of marital conflict and intimacy over time. Our study will analyze how changes in marital conflict impact future warmth and conflict between siblings. Data for this study come from the Family Relationships Project (FRP). The FRP surveyed two parents and two children from 200 families 13 times (phases) from 1995 to 2012. During in-home and web-based interviews parents and children reported on their family relationships and personal development. Using SAS we are conducting a series of lagged multi-level models to examine how the marital relationship at an earlier phase relates to sibling relationships of the next phase. We will then juxtapose our analyses from the first seven phases with the final six to observe any long-term correlations. Preliminary analyses have revealed a negative correlation between marital conflict and siblings’ levels of intimacy during childhood (r = -.17, p < .05), but not in adolescence (r = -.10, p < .05). In conclusion, we anticipate that our complete analysis will support the hypothesis that marital relationships play a role in the development of sibling relationships but that those links vary across the developmental periods of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.