Academic journal article Family Relations

Temperament and the Quality of Best Friendships: Effect of Same-Sex Sibling Relationships

Academic journal article Family Relations

Temperament and the Quality of Best Friendships: Effect of Same-Sex Sibling Relationships

Article excerpt

Temperament and the Quality of Best Friendships: Effect of Same-Sex Sibling Relationships*

The authors examined whether early adolescents' sibling relationships ameliorate the effects of a difficult temperament on best friendships, exploring whether qualities of early adolescents' sibling relationships would moderate the link between temperamental difficulties and best friendship quality. Data were collected at two points. At first collection, parents provided temperament ratings for 73 laterborn siblings (M = 7 years). Five years later, adolescents provided information about support and discord present in their best friendships and older siblings provided information about the warmth and conflict in their same-sex sibling dyads. The hypothesized moderating effect of the sibling relationship was found only for early adolescent girls. Support and discord in girls' best friendships was negatively and positively predicted, respectively, by level of temperamental difficulty only when relationships with their older sisters were lower in warmth or higher in conflict. Implications for understanding and improving early adolescents' closest friendships are discussed.

Key Words: adolescents, friendship, sibling relationships, temperament.

Children's and adolescents' temperaments can dramatically impact the experiences they will likely have growing up (Buss & Plomin, 1984; Chess & Thomas, 1986; Rothbart & Bates, 1998). For example, children with intense or difficult temperaments often are rejected by their peers (Bates, Bayles, Bennett, Ridge, & Brown, 1991; Eisenberg, Fabes, Bernzweig, Karbon, Poulin & Hanish, 1993). The extent to which this outcome can be avoided has not been fully established. Characteristics of children's and adolescents' social contexts may ameliorate the effects of their intense temperaments on their social relationships. Parents and family practitioners striving to help children and adolescents with intense temperaments to form more positive peer relationships may overlook resources available to them that can assistance in promoting better peer experiences. One potentially important resource is children's and adolescents' sibling relationships. As a result of their unique relationships, siblings may serve as a useful buffer against the negative consequences that a difficult temperament can have for early adolescents' friendships. Although several studies have considered the link between children's and adolescents' sibling and peer relationships (Stocker & Dunn, 1990; Updegraff & Obeidallah, 1999), few studies have considered the possible ameliorating effects of siblings when children and adolescents have more difficult temperaments. In the present study, we sought to determine whether early adolescents' sibling relationships moderated the link between their temperamental styles and the quality of their relationships with best friends.

Best Friendships and Temperamental Styles

Young people who experience more supportive friendships generally report being more self-disclosing and prosocial, receiving more emotional support and encouragement from their friends, and evidence less conflictual, domineering, or rivalrous behavior in their friendships (Berndt & Savin-Williams, 1993; Furman & Robbins, 1985). Although present in childhood friendships, adolescents, as a function of their increased cognitive and social perspective taking abilities, demonstrate more of the aforementioned characteristics in their supportive friendships (Berndt & Perry, 1986; Sharabany, Gershoni, & Hofman, 1981).

Our interest is the important role of young people's temperamental makeup to their ability to maintain more supportive and less conflictual friendships. Individual characteristics must be considered when examining children's and adolescents' interactions with others (Bell, 1971; Lerner, 1982). These characteristics are rooted partially in the individual's temperament. …

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