Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Birth Order and Age Differences in Early Sibling Roles

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Birth Order and Age Differences in Early Sibling Roles

Article excerpt


Seventy - six two - children families were assigned to one of three cohorts that differed in the second bom's age at an initial home visit (5,11, or 17 months); the families wer e seen again 6 months later, when the baby was 11,17, or 23 months. Mothers rated each child o n nine sibling role qualities (i.e., functions or feelings) that reflect aspects of sibling rol es. Children were also videotaped interacting in structured situations that were later coded for specif ic functions. First and second horns were seen to fulfill different roles; e.g., mothers rated first borns lower than second horns on identification, but higher on help. The differences between the two children on some aspects of sibling roles (e.g., identification) did not change with the children's ages. Yet other aspects (e.g., help) became increasingly similar, and such changes wer e attributable to the baby's development. Children's behaviour in the structured situations al so changed over the early sibling relationship, but, although some changes were attributable to the baby growing older, others were attributable to the older sibling's, or to both children's, d evelopment. The discussion focuses on possible sources of birth order and age differences in ear ly sibling roles.


On a reparti 76 familles de deux enfants parmi trots cohortes qui se differencia ient entre elles par l'a@ge du deuxieme enfant au moment d'une premiere visite (5, 11 ou 17 mois); on a revu les familles six mois plus tart, alors que le bebe avait atteint 11, 1 7 ou 23 mois. Les meres ont evalue chaque enfant selon neuf qualites fraternelles (c. - a - d . tea fonctions ou tea sentiments) qui refletent tea aspects tea ro@les de frere e t de soeur). On a Quasi enregistre au magnetoscope les interactions tea enfants dans tea situ ations structurees que l'on a en suite codees selon tea fonctions particulieres. Les a i@nes et les cadets etaient percus comme remplissant tea ro@les differents. C'est ain si, par exemple, que les meres ont evalue leur ai@ne comme plus faible que leur deuxieme en matiere d'identification, mais plus fort en matiere d'aide. Les differences entre les deux enfants dans certains aspects tea ro@les de frere et de soeur (p. ex. l'identification) ne changeaient pas avec l'a@ge tea enfants. Par contre, d'autres aspects (p. ex. l'aide) devenaient de plus en plus egaux entre les enfants, et on a at tribue ces changements au developpement du bebe. Le comportement tea enfants dans les situations structurees a Quasi evolue durant les debuts de la relation fraternel le, mais bien que certains changements soient attribuables au fate que le bebe avance en a@ge, d'autres sont du@s au developpement de l'ai@ne ou tea deux enfants. La discussi on Porte surtout sur tea sources possibles de differences relatives au rang de naissance et aux differences d'a@ge dans les premiers ro@les de frere et de soeur.

Birth - order effects refer to role differences between older and younger siblin gs. An analysis of early birth - order effects may ultimately elucidate the development of psych osocial differences attributed to birth order (Toman, 1976). Age effects concern differ ences related to the siblings' ages and to the gap between them. Examining how siblings' ages mo derate birth - order effects would reveal if the differences were related to differences in co mpetence or to roles independent of competence. Finally, studying early age differences in sib ling roles would provide insight into the emergence of what are most people's longest lasting fam ily roles.

Children's sibling roles include several qualities that reflect functions ( e.g., companionship) and feelings (e.g., affection) (Dunn,1983). Roles for older and younger sibling s are similar in some ways, different in others. The similarities and differences may be related to children's relative competence (Dunn, 1983). They may also be fostered by sibling role exp ectations; children may fulfill expectations that are either similar for older and younger siblings (e. …

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