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Middle Childhood Sibling Relationships

Sibling relationships are very important for children. These relationships can have both negative and positive influence on children, especially in middle childhood. Sibling relationships are the most long lasting family relationships because siblings are in the same generation, so they live the majority of their lives together.

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1. Sibling Teaching

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Siblings teach each other even with academic teaching. They help each other with schoolwork and with learning skills like riding a bike, reading, swimming or tying shoes. Older siblings are usually the teacher to their younger siblings. Teaching the younger ones can help teach the older siblings the theory of mind and perspective-taking skills. Younger siblings are more responsive to the teachings of their older siblings than teachings of adults, teachers, or parents.

2. Sibling Support

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Children in middle childhood can either crave or give support to their siblings. Siblings support themselves during hard times or during their times of need. They provide support especially for social problems in school. Siblings are more comfortable sharing their problems, situations or events with each other than parents because of the level of understanding. Younger siblings seek advice from older siblings because they know that they may have experienced similar things before. Sibling support can be a buffer for children against stressful or traumatic life events like deaths, divorce, bullying, adoption, abandonment and so on.

3. Sibling Warmth

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Sibling warmth is a relationship between siblings that is the opposite of sibling conflict. It is the closeness and affection within siblings in sibling relationships. In middle childhood, sibling warmth is connected to better adjustment and better social competence. There are three types of sibling relationships: ambivalent, conflictual, harmonious. Ambivalent relationships are high on warmth and high on conflict. Conflictual relationships are low on sibling warmth but high on sibling conflict, while harmonious relationships are high on warmth and low on conflict. To have healthy sibling relationships, there needs to be some level of sibling warmth even if siblings have conflicts.

4. Sibling Conflict

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Sibling conflict peaks in middle childhood, however, it declines during adolescence. Siblings closer in age have more conflict than siblings further in age. Same gender sibling dyads have less conflict than opposite gender siblings although male siblings fight more than female siblings. The conflicts siblings have can be normal or chronic. Chronic siblings conflicts can be bullying or aggression. During middle childhood, children develop ownerships which lead to conflicts over personal possessions.

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