In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Siblings

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Ecocultural Theory and Siblings
  • Who Is a Sibling?
  • Siblings at Play
  • Sibling Conflict

Childhood Studies Siblings
Ashley Maynard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 March 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0032


Most children in the world grow up with one or more siblings. Interactions with siblings serve important functions in development because they allow children to practice roles and to observe other children who are related and who are more skilled. The sibling relationship is important in development through the lifespan, but the nature of sibling relationships varies across cultures. Even in childhood, siblings are effective at socializing each other in cultural activities involving cognitive and social skills. Through the lifespan, siblings bonds continue to different degrees across cultures.

General Overviews

The topic of siblings has been approached most notably in the fields of developmental psychology, including clinical approaches, and in anthropology. The role of siblings in childhood socialization has received much attention in recent years (e.g., Dunn and Plomin 1990, Maynard 2004, Nuckolls 1993, Zukow 1989, Zukow-Goldring 1995). Dunn and Kendrick 1982 examines sibling relationships from a European and European-American point of view.

  • Dunn, Judy, and Carol Kendrick. Siblings: Love, Envy, and Understanding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

    A dominant theme is sibling rivalry, a cultural phenomenon in the West. The authors also focus on parent-child relationships, and how parents can support sibling relationships.

  • Dunn, Judy, and Robert Plomin. Separate Lives: Why Siblings Are So Different. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

    A book about siblings by a premier sibling researcher and a psychologist specializing in behavioral genetics. The book shows how heredity and environment interact in the development of children growing up in the same families.

  • Maynard, Ashley E. “Sibling Interactions.” In Childhood and Adolescence: Cross-cultural Perspectives and Applications. Edited by Uwe Gielen and Jaipaul L. Roopnarine, 229–252. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004.

    This is a chapter reviewing sibling interactions across cultures.

  • Nuckolls, Charles W., ed. Siblings in South Asia: Brothers and Sisters in Cultural Context. New York: Guilford, 1993.

    This is an edited volume covering sibling relationships in South Asia from several perspectives, including those from developmental psychology, psychoanalysis, and ethnopsychology.

  • Zukow, Patricia Goldring, ed. Sibling Interaction across Cultures: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1989.

    This is an edited volume by a leading expert in sibling relationships. The book focuses on social interaction among siblings as an engine for social, emotional, and cognitive development.

  • Zukow-Goldring, Patricia. “Sibling Caregiving.” In Handbook of Parenting. Vol. 3, Status and Social Conditions of Parenting. Edited by Marc H. Bornstein, 177–208. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1995.

    This is a handbook chapter on sibling interactions. Zukow-Goldring reviews research on sibling interactions from a cultural and developmental perspective. This handbook chapter is an excellent place to start the study of sibling interactions across cultures.

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