Harnessing the power of sibling relationships as a tool for optimizing social–emotional development

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Abstract

Sibling relationships provide one of the most stable and powerful developmental contexts for the transmission of both prosocial and antisocial behavior. As a source of support and skill development, sibling relationships can build competence in self-regulation and emotional understanding. However, sibling relationships marked by antisocial behavior, substance use, and conflict place children at risk for a host of negative outcomes. Family relationship features, particularly parenting practices and discord, contribute strongly to both the quality of sibling relationships and children's well-being. Our review of intervention strategies reveals that the potential of sibling relationships to promote socioemotional development may be best realized through family-centered approaches that build prosocial sibling interactions, curtail child behavior problems, and strengthen parenting.

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