Academic journal article Family Relations

Mexican American College Students' Communication with Their Siblings

Academic journal article Family Relations

Mexican American College Students' Communication with Their Siblings

Article excerpt

Sibling relationships are the most enduring rela- tionships that individuals experience (White, 2001), and the qualities and functions of sib- ling relationships change across the life span (Cicirelli, 1995). Researchers have stated that in childhood and adolescence sibling intimacy is maintained through daily contact within the home (Cicirelli, 1995). By young adult- hood, however, sibling intimacy is maintained from a distance (e.g., telephone). Compared to other developmental time periods, there is limited research on communication and relation- ship maintenance among young adult siblings (Milevsky & Heerwagen, 2013), particularly for siblings of Mexican descent.

Mexican Americans make up a large and rapidly growing segment of the U.S. popula- tion (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a), and there are several reasons why examining Mexican American young adults' sibling relationships is an important area of study. First, Mexican American adolescents spend more time with siblings than with parents (Updegraff, McHale, Whiteman, Thayer, & Delgado, 2005), setting precedence for contact in young adulthood. Sec- ond, siblings may serve as important resources for young adults in contexts outside of the family (e.g., college) of which parents have less knowledge (Updegraff, McHale, Killoren, & Rodríguez, 2011). Third, given the Mexi- can cultural value of familism (Knight et al., 2010), Mexican American young adults may be more likely to maintain a relationship with a sibling compared to other young adults. In this study, we examined communication between Mexican American siblings in young adulthood with a focus on (a) method and frequency of communication used by siblings and potential differences based on the gender constellation of the sibling dyad and (b) the association between relationship qualities and frequency of communication and the role of cultural values and orientations in moderating these linkages.

The literature on sibling communication in young adulthood includes studies of functional communication skills (Myers & Knox, 1998); willingness to communicate with siblings and the frequency, depth, and breadth of this commu- nication (Rocca & Martin, 1998); and motives to communicate with siblings (Rocca, Martin, & Dunleavy, 2010) among college undergradu- ates and their brothers or sisters. Despite their emphasis on communication, however, these studies do not examine siblings' use of the new information and communication technolo- gies (ICTs) that are presently available (Lani- gan, 2009). As suggested by scholars, this is an important issue for siblings transitioning to adulthood (Conger & Little, 2010) as the avail- ability of new ICTs influences family commu- nication (Hertlein, 2012). Further, young adult- hood is an important time to examine siblings' use of ICTs given that siblings may no longer live in the same household and geographic dis- tance among family members may result in greater use of ICTs (Lanigan, 2009). Use of ICTs may increase siblings' intimacy with one another through more frequent interactions and the use of multiple interaction methods (Hertlein, 2012).

In addition to the method of communi- cation, we were interested in examining the frequency with which Mexican American siblings communicate. Overall, researchers have found that sibling contact declines in young adulthood and stabilizes in middle adulthood, and importantly, sibling contact decreases less across the life span for Latinos compared to White Americans (White, 2001). Although we are not examining communi- cation over time, this finding highlights the unique nature of the sibling relationship for Latinos.

In one of the few studies investigating dif- ferences in sibling communication by gender constellation of the sibling dyad, Lee, Mancini, and Maxwell (1990) examined sibling contact among adults and found that sisters had greater contact with one another than did brothers or mixed-gender sibling pairs. …

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