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Keywords:

  • Siblings;
  • maternal depression;
  • parent–child relationships;
  • research design;
  • family factors

Background:  Although many children grow up with more than one sibling, we do not yet know if sibling dyads within families show similarities to one another on sibling affection and hostility. In the present study the hypotheses were tested that (a) there will be significant between family variation in change in sibling affection and hostility and (b) this between family variation will be explained by maternal affective climate, operationalized as positive and negative ambient parenting, differential parenting and maternal malaise.

Methods:  A general population sample of families with single and multiple sibling dyads were visited twice, 2 years apart. Up to 2 children in a family acted as informants; 253 relationships were rated in 118 families. A cross-classified, multilevel model was fit to separate between-family and within-family variance in sibling relationships while simultaneously controlling for informant and partner influences.

Results:  Thirty-seven percent of the variance in change in sibling affection and 32% of the variance in change in sibling hostility was between family variance. The measured maternal affective climate including, maternal malaise and maternal ambient and differential hostility and affection explained between family differences.

Conclusions:  Sibling relationship quality clusters in families and is partly explained by maternal affective climate.