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Promoting Positive Sibling Relationships in Middle Childhood Through the "Siblings are Special" Program

Co-P.I.'s: Drs. Mark Feinberg and Susan McHale

The "Siblings Are Special" program is a 12-session after school program for siblings in 2nd – 5th grade. Research suggests that siblings can be an important source of support and companionship for one another, but at the same time there may be a high degree of conflict and fighting between siblings. Indeed, many parents say that they are concerned about their children fighting with one another.

The main goal of the "Siblings Are Special" program is to help siblings learn skills and attitudes that will lead to more support and cooperation and less conflict in sibling relationships. Ultimately, more positive sibling relationships are expected to help children develop better social skills, focus better at school, and sustain more positive relationships with peers. We expect that all of these changes will lead children to enter adolescence happier and better adjusted, and to show less negative and delinquent behaviors.

In this ongoing pilot intervention study, 128 families were randomly assigned to attend the "Siblings Are Special" program or to be in a control condition. Mothers, fathers, and two siblings complete pre- and post-intervention assessments and a one-year follow up. Measures include self-reports and videotaped observations that assess family relationships and youth’s psychosocial adjustment.This project is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.