Family Separateness’ and Connectedness’ Impact on Sibling Relationships, Stress and Depression during Emerging Adulthood

by Megan Ferriby

Institution: The Ohio State University
Department: Human Ecology: Human Development and Family Science
Degree: MS
Year: 2015
Keywords: Families and Family Life; sibling, connectedness, separateness, emerging adulthood
Record ID: 2061229
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1417797399


Siblings serve an important role within each other’s lives throughout the life course. The relationships between siblings do not develop in isolation; sibling relationships are governed by the rules and expectations of the family of origin. One of these characteristics is family distance regulation, which consists of two components: separateness and connectedness. The interplay between these two components may influence the quality of the sibling relationship as well as individual outcomes, such as stress and depression. This study utilized Actor Partner Interdependence Models to understand the associations between these variables within sixty four sibling pairs (thirty three female female dyads, thirty one female male dyads) during emerging adulthood, a transitional developmental period. Overall, it appears that family distance regulation is not associated with sibling relationship quality, save for within female male dyads. Brother’s separateness was associated with lower sister’s perceived warmth between siblings. Additionally, distinct patterns emerged between warmth and individual stress based on the gender make up of the dyad. Both sisters’ warmth was associated with lower personal stress and higher sibling stress. This may indicate that during times of stress, sisters reach out to their other sister, signaling that the relationship is valued, thus increasing the warmth between the two siblings. This increase in warmth affirms that the individual has a support person in their sister, thus lowering their personal stress levels. Brothers’ warmth was associated with higher sisters’ stress and sisters’ stress was associated with higher brothers’ stress. This may indicate that if the sibling relationship is highly valued, i.e. has higher warmth, the transitions of emerging adulthood may constrain the relationship, which increases the stress experienced by the siblings. Finally, personal stress was associated with higher personal depression, furthering the importance of sibling relationships during this time period. These results indicate that the sibling relationship may be a crucial support figure during the transitional period of emerging adulthood. Future research should replicate these findings to further the field’s understanding of sibling relationships and explore how the family of origin influences siblings. With continued research and investigation, interventions could be developed to foster sibling relationships to enhance their protective factors, especially during emerging adulthood.