Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

August 1992


Published in Journal of Marriage and Family 54 (August 1992), pp. 652-663. Published on behalf of the National Council on Family Relations. Copyright © 1992 Blackwell Publishing, Ltd. Used by permission.


This study examined sibling conflict and relationship qualities in early adolescence. One hundred four 10- to 15-year-olds (mean age 11.7 years) completed questionnaires assessing the quality of their relationship with their closest sibling, and were interviewed about a recent, specific conflict with that sibling. Analysis suggests that sibling conflict fulfills several functions in early adolescence, including reinforcing family and relationship rules and delineating interpersonal boundaries. Few differences attributable to age or gender constellation of the sibling dyad emerged, and rivalry did not appear to be a primary impetus to conflict during this age period. Instead, sibling conflict appears to create a context where age-appropriate issues of individuation and differentiation are played out.