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Start Date: 2009
Funder: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Sisters and brothers are children’s most common out-of-school companions, and sibling relationships are the longest lasting relationships in most people’s lives. Because of their sheer amount of contact, and also because of the emotional significance of this relationship, siblings are powerful influences on each other's development and adjustment. As parents, we know that sisters and brothers don’t always get along as well as we would like. Indeed, most parents say that sibling conflict and rivalry is their number one stressor at home.

Because of the importance of sibling relationships to children’s adjustment and to family harmony, we developed the Siblings Are Special program. The program aims to enhance the quality of sibling and family relationships and thereby promote positive adjustment as children move into middle school, including keeping children from engaging in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug use. Siblings are Special consists of a series of 12 after-school sessions for sibling pairs in elementary school, along with monthly family nights.

We are now conducting a study to assess the impact of the program in collaboration with schools throughout Central Pennsylvania. Funding for this project comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as part of the National Institutes of Health's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

Project Members

Mark Feinberg, Ph.D. photo

Principal Investigator

Mark Feinberg, Ph.D.

Mark is a faculty member in the Prevention Research Center. His research has focused on family relationships, including sibling, parent-child, and coparenting relations. He has explored questions relating to the ways in which siblings may find their own niches (i.e., become differentiated). This work has examined the ways that parent-child relations influence sibling relationships. His prevention research includes developing and testing a program to enhance coparenting relations, and developing a new model for supporting the health of mothers. The oldest of four children, he has three children of his own, ranging in age from 6 to 12, which allows Mark to closely observe the triangles and coalitions that come and go among siblings.
Love@psu.edu

Susan McHale, Ph.D. photo

Co-Principal Investigator

Susan McHale, Ph.D.

Susan is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the Director of the Social Science Research Institute and Children, Youth, and Families Consortium. She has studied siblings and families, including why two children from the same family are often different from each other and sibling influences on development and adjustment in childhood and adolescence. She is the second born of four children, and has two children—a daughter in college and a son in high school.
x2u@psu.edu

Project Coordinator

Michelle Hostetler, Ph.D.

Michelle is a Research Associate in the Prevention Research Center who received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State. She has focused on prevention program evaluation, work-family issues, and family relationships. The oldest of four, Michelle has two children—a 15-year-old and an 8-year-old—and has observed that even a large age difference does not prevent sibling rivalry.
siblings@psu.edu

Curriculum Advisor

Kari-Lyn Sakuma, Ph.D., MPH

Kari-Lyn is a Research Associate in the Prevention Research Center. She has written and developed numerous prevention curricula including on smoking and alcohol prevention for adolescents in California, Hawaii, and China, and obesity prevention among multi-ethnic youth. Also the oldest of four children, Kari-Lyn has intimate knowledge of sibling feuds and alliances.
ksakuma@psu.edu

Recent Publications

Soli, A. R., McHale, S. M., & Feinberg, M. E. (in press). Risk and protective effects of sibling relationships among African American adolescents. Family Relations.

McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (in press). Families as nonshared environments for siblings. In A. Booth, A. C. Crouter, S. Bianchi, & J. A. Seltzer (Eds.), Caring and exchange within and across generations. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Kan, M. L., McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (2008). Incongruence between mothers’ and fathers’ differential treatment of adolescent siblings: Links with marital quality. Journal of Marriage and the Family.

Tucker, C. J., McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (2008). Links between adolescent siblings' adjustment: The moderating role of shared activities. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32, 152-160.

Kim, J. Y., McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., & Osgood, D. W. (2007). Longitudinal linkages between sibling relationships and adjustment from middle childhood through adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 43, 960-973.

Whiteman, S. D., McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (2007). Competing processes of sibling influence: Social learning and sibling deidentification. Social Development, 16, 642-661.

McHale, S. M., Kim, J. I., Whiteman, S. D., & Crouter, A. C. (2007). Sibling relationships in two-parent African American families. Journal of Family Psychology, 43, 960-973.

Kim, J. Y., McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., & Osgood, D. W. (2006). Longitudinal course and family correlates of sibling relationships from childhood through adolescence. Child Development, 77, 1387-1402.

McHale, S. M., Kim, J., & Whiteman, S. D. (2006). Sibling relationships in childhood and adolescence. In P. Noller & J. Feeney (Eds.), Close relationships (pp. 127-150). Psychology Press.

McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (2006). Sibling relationships in childhood: Implications for life course study. In V. Bengston, A. Accock, K. Allen, P Dilworth-Anderson, & D. Klein (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theory and research (pp. 184-190). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Crouter, A. C., & McHale, S. M. (2005). Work time, family time, and children's time: Implications for child and adolescent relationships, development, and well-being. In S. Bianchi, L. Casper, K. E. Christensen, & R. B. King (Eds.), Workforce/workplace mismatch: Work, family, health, and well-being (pp. 49-66). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Feinberg, M. E., Reiss, D., Neiderhiser, J., & Hetherington, E. M. (2005). Differential association of family subsystem negativity on siblings’ maladjustment: Using behavior genetic methods to test process theory. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 601-610.

McHale, S. M., Updegraff, K. A., Shanahan, L., & Killoren, S. A. (2005). Siblings' differential treatment in Mexican American families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1259-1274.

Updegraff, K. A., McHale, S. M., Whiteman, S. D., Thayer, S. M., & Killoren, S. A. (2005). Cultural correlates of sibling relationships in Mexican American families. Journal of Family Psychology.

Updegraff, K. A., Thayer, S. M., Whiteman, S. D., Denning, D. A., & McHale, S. M. (2005). Sibling relational aggression in adolescence: Links to parent-adolescent and sibling relationship quality. Family Relations, 54, 373-385.

McHale, S. M. & Crouter, A. C., (2004). Sibling relationships in childhood: Implications for life course study. In V. Bengston, A. Accock, K. Allen, P Dilworth-Anderson, & D. Klein (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theory and research (pp.184-190). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Crouter, A. C., Tucker, C. J., Head, M. R., & McHale, S. M. (2004). Family time and the psychosocial adjustment of adolescent siblings and their parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66, 147-162.

Feinberg, M.E ., McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., & Cumsille, P. (2003). Sibling differentiation: Sibling and parent relationship trajectories in adolescence. Child Development, 74, 1242-1255.

Feinberg, M., Neiderhiser, J., Reiss, D., Hetherington, E. M., Plomin, R., & Simmens, S. (2000). Sibling comparison of differential parental treatment in adolescence: Gender, self-esteem, and emotionality as mediators of the parenting-adjustment association. Child Development, 71, 1611-1628.

Feinberg, M., & Hetherington, E. M. (2000). Sibling differentiation in adolescence: Implications for behavioral genetic theory. Child Development, 71, 1512-1524.

Contact Us

Mark Feinberg

Susan McHale

Michelle Hostetler
(800) 228-5690
(814) 865-7377

Mail:

Prevention Research Center
The Pennsylvania State University
S109 Henderson Building
University Park, PA 16802