Sibling Differentiation in Adolescence: Implications for Behavioral Genetic Theory

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Abstract

The presence of sibling “differentiating rocesses”— defined as processes in which increased sibling similarity in environmental or genetic factors leads to differences in sibling outcomes — poses a challenge for standard behavioral genetic theory and research. The presence of differentiation processes may affect estimates of genetic and environmental parameters in ways that have not been fully recognized. Utilizing data from the Nonshared Environment and Adolescent Development project, this study examined whether differentiating processes existed for seven composite indices of positive and negative adolescent adjustment. The 720 sibling pairs in the study were broken down into groups by age difference (0 – 4 years) between siblings. The hypothesis that siblings close in age would demonstrate lower correlations on adjustment measures was generally supported at two time points, three years apart. However, siblings one year apart at Time 1 were more similar to each other than were siblings two years apart, suggesting that shared environmental influences counteract sibling differentiation processes for these siblings. The overall trend supporting sibling differentiation was found to be unrelated to measures of sibling positivity and negativity.

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