Parent-Child Relations throughout Life

By Karl Pillemer; Kathleen McCartney | Go to book overview

DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
In summary, the following points seem most useful to begin to clarify the complex processes involved in the nonshared experiences of siblings within the family:
1. Differential experiences within the mother-child and the sibling relationships of siblings are likely to occur at a number of different levels, from a broad emotional level to more specifically cognitive-attributional level. Differential experiences at any or all of these levels may be developmentally significant. Research designs should be sensitive to this range of possible levels of influence.
2. The developmental impact of differential experiences is likely to differ for different aspects of children's outcome. The experiences that influence self esteem for instance are likely to differ from those that affect skills of conflict resolution, or understanding others' feelings and intentions.
3. The extent of the developmental impact of the various differential experiences is likely to change with the developmental stage of the children, and with the family position and gender composition of the individual. However no research to date has focused on this issue.
4. Mothers diffser in the extent to which they treat their children differentially. Evidence suggests that these differences are related to maternal personality, age, education, and to siblings' temperament ( Dunn & Plomin, 1986), during the preschool period; further research is needed on older children to explore these influences on differential behavior.
5. Similarly, the extent of differential experiences within the sibling relationship varies greatly between sibling pairs. Factors associated with such variation are the temperamental match of the siblings, and age differences ( Dunn & Plomin, 1990).
6. The issue of the direction of effects is of major importance. Future studies must attempt to clarify how differences between siblings contribute to or elicit differential experiences within the family.

It should be noted that the argument and evidence for this new perspective on the nature of family influence is set out in much more detail in a recent book ( Dunn & Plomin, 1990) to which the interested reader is referred.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The study of the siblings participating in the Colorado Adoption Project (CAP) is supported by the National Science Foundation (BNS-8806589). The CAP is supported by HD-10333, HD-18426, and MH-43899. The Cambridge Sib-

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