No! The Lambs Can Stay Out Because They Got Cozies”: Constructive and Destructive Sibling Conflict, Pretend Play, and Social Understanding



Associations among constructive and destructive sibling conflict, pretend play, internal state language, and sibling relationship quality were investigated in 40 middle–class dyads with a kindergarten–age child (M age = 5.7 years). In 20 dyads the sibling was older (M age = 7.1 years) and in 20 dyads the sibling was younger (M age = 3.6 years). Dyads were videotaped playing with a farm set for 15 min; transcribed sessions were coded for (1) five types of conflict issues; (2) constructive, destructive, and passive resolution strategies; and (3) verbal and physical aggression. Measures of pretend play enactment, low– and high–level pretense negotiation strategies, and internal state language were also based on the transcripts. The Sibling Behavior and Feelings Questionnaire was used to assess both siblings’ perceptions of sibling relationship quality. Findings revealed that conflict issues, aggression, and internal state language were associated with specific resolution strategies. Associations were evident between conflict issues and resolutions. Moreover, conflict issues and resolutions were associated with (1) relationship quality, (2) high–level pretense negotiation, and (3) internal state language employed in both play and conflict. Findings are discussed in light of recent theory on developmental processes operating within children’s relationships.