University of Denver
The George Washington University
When a second child is born, family dynamics change, and the joys and responsibilities of parenting undergo dramatic transformations. One no longer has a child, but instead one has children. These children can be quite different from one another. The parenting practices used with one child may need to be modified for the second and subsequent children. The children may differ, and the parents themselves may change as they continue to develop. Therefore it is not surprising to discover that parents treat their latterborn children differently from their firstborn or from an only child. The nature of the relationship that develops between siblings can also influence how parents rear siblings.
Furman (1995) examined the literature on the potential influences that siblings have on parenting and parent–child relationships. Since the time of that review, researchers have continued to conduct research relevant to the issue. In this chapter, we review these studies, as well as the prior ones, and discuss how parenting may be influenced by having siblings. We focus on nontwin siblings, as Lytton with Gallagher (in Vol. 1 of this Handbook) discuss twin relationships extensively. In the first section of this chapter we present a brief history of the field, outlining the central theories, research trends, and major conceptual issues in research on parenting siblings. After this historical analysis, we summarize the empirical literature on four broad topics: how parent–child relationships may vary as a function of family constellation variables, such as birth order and family size; how relationships change with the birth of another child; how the nature of the sibling relationship may be related to parenting; and how consistent parental treatment of two children is. We close by discussing future directions for research in the field.