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A Close Look At Sibling Relations During Middle Childhood

There is a saying that goes, you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family! Interestingly enough, however, sibling relationships and interactions, particularly within the context of middle childhood, are understudied and have only recently become an area of focus. This BuzzFeed serves to highlight some of the characteristics of sibling relationships during middle childhood! By: Anna Reynish

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General Characteristics

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This image shows four siblings recreating a childhood photo years down the line. The four siblings in the photograph(s) are evidently not of the same age. This is important to note because siblings are often not of the same age unless the siblings happen to be twins. Nonetheless, siblings are typically close proximity in age (closer than children are to parents), which means that sibling relationships are typically the longest-lasting family relationships.

Sibling Conflict!

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Sibling conflict during the period of middle childhood is inevitable. In fact, as demonstrated in the photograph above, sibling conflict is actually higher during middle childhood than at any other period of development. Therefore, as children age and enter the period of adolescence, sibling conflict decreases. It is known that siblings that are not of the same gender experience more conflict than those of the same gender, and that siblings that are closer proximity in age experience more conflict than those that are not as close in age. Research has found that siblings most commonly fight over personal possessions (such as the hamburger the siblings pictured above are fighting over) and privacy. Siblings may also fight over parental attention or parental favoritism, however, research has found that this is a much less common source of conflict.

What Affects Sibling Conflict, and What Can Parents Do?

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Sibling conflict during middle childhood is to be expected! But what developmental changes can affect conflict and how can parents help to mediate it? Before getting overwhelmed by children's quarrels like the mom in the picture above, read what we have to say about it! As children grow older, they come to understand what their strengths and what their weaknesses are. This ability can lead to social comparison and often, power differences within a sibling relationship. Power differences, along with continuous social development, allows for siblings to engage in manipulation. As children grow older, their cognitive abilities also continue to develop; children's vocabulary broadens and the language used during conflict becomes more complex. It is important to note that conflict is not always negative, and can even teach children to problem solve, as children engage in conflict resolution. As a parent, it is important to encourage problem-solving when conflict occurs. It is also important for parents not to engage in high levels of conflict, as this can lead to an increase in conflict among siblings.

Sibling Support

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It is not all conflict, sibling relationships during middle childhood are also characterized by support seeking! It has been found that siblings often provide guidance to one another in regards to handling peer and parental relationships. Having access to the support of a sibling can help reduce as well as moderate the effects of stressors. In the gif above, the younger sister is shown providing emotional support to her older sister. Though tumultuous at times, sibling relationships during middle childhood are rewarding and enable/ allow children to seek comfort in someone close to them in age, within the comfort of the home.

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