Theoretical Perspectives on Sibling Relationships


  • Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Department of Child Development and Family Studies, Purdue University, CDFS Building, 101 Gates Rd., PO Box 47907, West Lafayette, IN (


Although siblings are a fixture of family life, research on sibling relationships lags behind that on other family relationships. To stimulate interest in sibling research and to serve as a guide for future investigations by family scholars, we review four theoretical psychologically oriented perspectives—(a) psychoanalytic-evolutionary, (b) social psychological, (c) social learning, and (d) family-ecological systems— that can inform research on sibling relationships, including perspectives on the nature and influences on developmental, individual, and group differences in sibling relationships. Given that most research on siblings has focused on childhood and adolescence, our review highlights these developmental periods, but we also incorporate the limited research on adult sibling relationships, including suggestions for future research on this fundamental family relationship.