It has been said that no two siblings are born into the same family. The first-born child experiences an entirely different environment than each subsequent child born into that same family. Birth order influences the roles that children assume and also the way in which parents relate to each child. Although there has been a wealth of research examining how conflict within families, particularly between parents and adolescents, affects children’s behaviors, less is known about how birth order affects conflict. This line of questioning can be further expanded by asking how a child’s behavior influences the level of parent-child conflict.
To address all of these questions, Chun Bun Lam of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University recently conducted a study that examined the bidirectional influence of risky behavior and parental conflict in a sample of 355 parent-teen dyads. For the study, Lam enlisted the two oldest adolescent members of the families and assessed how their behaviors affected the level of conflict they experienced with their mothers and their fathers. The study also measured how conflict with mothers or conflict with fathers affected risky behavior in each of the teens. Lam and colleagues evaluated the family dyads three separate times over the course of 2 years.
The results revealed that the adolescents with the highest levels of parental conflict at Time 1 engaged in the riskiest behaviors over the 2-year period. Upon further examination, Lam found this result to be somewhat bidirectional. Specifically, Lam discovered that the teens with the highest levels of risky behavior at Time 1 were involved in more father-teen conflicts over the study period than the teens with low levels of risky behavior. However, the high-risk teens did not engage in higher levels of mother-teen conflict when compared to low-risk behavior adolescents. These results shed light on the complicated and unique way in which birth order, behavior and conflict affect future outcomes for adolescents. Lam added, “Findings highlight the importance of examining both family dynamics and child characteristics in understanding sibling differentiation, and illuminate potential differences in parenting processes involving mothers versus fathers.”
Lam, C. B., Solmeyer, A. R., McHale, S. M. (2012). Sibling differences in parent–child conflict and risky behavior: A three-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029083
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.