Sibling Relationships Over the Life Course: A Panel Analysis



Using pooled time series analysis on approximately 9,000 individuals ages 16–85 interviewed in the 1987–1988 and 1992–1994 waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), this research examines change in 4 behavioral measures of sibling relationships—proximity, contact, giving help, and receiving help—over the life course. All four measures of sibling relationship decline significantly during early adulthood, but proximity and contact stabilize in middle age and do not decline further, whereas sibling exchange demonstrates a slight rise after approximately age 70. Life course analyses provide only modest support for a model in which siblings substitute for parents, spouses, and children. With the partial exception of proximity, measured life course changes do not explain observed age effects.