Unseen Passage: Sibling Relationship

The majority of children around the world have at least one sibling. The sibling relationship is likely to last longer than any other relationship in one’s lifetime and plays an integral part in the lives of families. Yet, in comparison to the wealth of studies on parent child relationships, relatively little attention has been devoted to the role of siblings and their impact on one another’s development. In recent decades, research has focused on sibling relations in early childhood, and the shift from examining the role of structural variables (e.g., age, birth order) towards more process variables (e.g., understanding of their social worlds) has proved to be a fruitful direction. Siblings are viewed as an integral component of family systems and as an important context for learning and development but there are a number of methodological and conceptual challenges to studying siblings from this perspective.

In early childhood, four major characteristics of sibling relations are prominent. First, sibling interactions are emotionally charged relationships defined by strong, uninhibited emotions of a positive, negative and sometimes ambivalent quality. Second, sibling relations are defined by intimacy: as youngsters spend large amounts of time playing together, they know each other very well. This long history and intimate knowledge translates into opportunities for providing emotional and instrumental support for one another, engaging in pretend play, for conflict, and for understanding others’ points of view. Third, sibling relations are characterized by large individual differences in the quality of children’s relations with one another. Fourth, the age difference between siblings often makes the issues of power and control as well as rivalry and jealousy, sources of contention for children, but also provide a context for more positive types of complementary exchanges, such as teaching, helping, and care giving interactions. Broadly speaking, the characteristics of sibling relations sometimes make them challenging for parents, because of the potentially emotional and highly charged nature of the relationship. One issue that arises due to age differences is differential parental treatment.

Q. On the basis of your reading and understanding of the above passage, answer the following:

  1. What has given a fruitful direction to the research on siblings in the recent decades?
  2. Which perspective of studying sibling is challenging? What kind of challenges are these?
  3. Why sibling relationship in the early childhood is important?
  4. Does age difference between siblings always result into rivalry? How do you know ?
  5. A synonym for the word ‘context’ in para 1 is:
    1. theory
    2. viewpoint
    3. background
    4. premise
  6. The word ‘ambivalent’ in para 2 means :
    1. uninhibited
    2. uncertain
    3. intimate
    4. complimentary
  7. An antonym for the word ‘contention’ in para 2 is
    1. harmony
    2. disagreement
    3. discord
    4. friction
  8. The expression ‘potentially emotional’ in para 2 means to
    1. be more intimate.
    2. be emotionally challenging.
    3. have a scope to be emotionally stronger.
    4. be emotionally disturbing.

Answer

  1. The shift from examining the role of structural variables (e.g., age, birth order) towards more process variables (e.g., understanding of their social worlds) has given a fruitful direction to the research on siblings in the recent decades.
  2. The perspective of studying sibling as an important context for learning and development is challenging. These are methodological and conceptual challenges.
  3. Sibling relationship in the early childhood translates into opportunities for providing emotional and instrumental support for one another.
  4. No, age difference between siblings doesn’t always result into rivalry because sometimes it also provides a context for more positive types of complementary exchanges, such as teaching, helping, and care giving interactions.
  5. premise
  6. uncertain
  7. harmony
  8. have a scope to be emotionally stronger

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