Problem Solving, Contention, and Struggle: How Siblings Resolve a Conflict of Interests



In a laboratory setting, 48 sibling dyads age 4 and 6 or 6 and 8 years negotiated the division of six toys. Findings revealed that, in general, children reached divisions while using a preponderance of constructive problem-solving strategies, rather than contentious tactics. The degree of conflict of interests and the quality of sibling relationships predicted the children's use of problem-solving and contentious negotiation strategies, and was related to the types of resolutions achieved. Dyads experiencing low conflict of interests resolved their differences quickly. High conflict of interests coupled with positive relationships and constructive negotiation resulted in longer negotiations and creative, agreeable resolutions. High conflict of interests coupled with more negative relationships and destructive negotiations resulted in children's failures to reach agreement. Developmental differences indicated that older siblings within the pairs took the lead in negotiation, and benefited slightly more from the divisions. Furthermore, children in older dyads were more sophisticated and other oriented in their negotiations.