It is well documented that friends' externalizing problems and negative parent–child interactions predict externalizing problems in adolescence, but relatively little is known about the role of siblings. This four-wave, multi-informant study investigated linkages of siblings' externalizing problems and sibling–adolescent negative interactions on adolescents' externalizing problems, while examining and controlling for similar linkages with friends and parents.
Questionnaire data on externalizing problems and negative interactions were annually collected from 497 Dutch adolescents (M = 13.03 years, SD = 0.52, at baseline), as well as their siblings, mothers, fathers, and friends.
Cross-lagged panel analyses revealed modest unique longitudinal paths from sibling externalizing problems to adolescent externalizing problems, for male and female adolescents, and for same-sex and mixed-sex sibling dyads, but only from older to younger siblings. Moreover, these paths were above and beyond significant paths from mother–adolescent negative interaction and friend externalizing problems to adolescent externalizing problems, 1 year later. No cross-lagged paths existed between sibling–adolescent negative interaction and adolescent externalizing problems.
Taken together, it appears that especially older sibling externalizing problems may be a unique social risk factor for adolescent externalizing problems, equal in strength to significant parents' and friends' risk factors.