SOC 200 READINGS
Chapter 11 – Sibling Relationships and Situations
Transition to a two-child family is one that parents have to help the first-born negotiate. Children between 2-4 years of age
are particularly affected because their entire life has been spent as an only child. Children who are older can cognitively
understand the situation better.
Each successive child contributes to changing its environment. A family’s economic resources diminish with each new
child. With each new arrival, parents spend more time interacting with their children altogether, but have less time for each
child individually. Mother-child relationship becomes less affectionate. Parenting style can be more punitive and the older
child may feel less securely attached. First borns more suffer form a variety of problems of adjustment, anxiety, clinging
behavior, bed-wetting, aggressiveness.
The survival requirements of an infant are more urgent and constant than those of an older sibling, resulting in parents
giving more attention to younger than older children.
Happily married couples are more likely to add more children to their family.
Small children who are intense and less adaptable react negatively to baby’s arrival than children with sunnier and more
With four years or more between two children, the parents’ relationship with the first born may continue to be exclusive
during a portion of the day as the baby sleeps. With this much spacing, each sibling is in a way an only child and little
competition takes place.
When children are closely spaced, they do less well in educational achievements. Parents have less time for children who
are close in age because they follow the same routine. Children with several years between them have different needs at
different times and have more individual attention. Much older siblings are more intellectually and socially stimulating for
children than siblings closer to their age.
Large sibling groups do not do as well at school than small sibling groups, neither do they advance as much professionally
later on as do adults coming from smaller families.
Dilution of parental resources – parents have fewer resources for each child individually, whether in terms of time,
attention, economic means.
Mothers are less responsive to children in larger families. A large sibling group dilutes the quality of the home
environment available to each child. This occurs even moreso when children are closely spaced in a large family, because
they interact more among themselves and have less adult attention. Aggressiveness also appears more often in larger
families and children leave home earlier in smaller families.
Siblings growing up in large families are more affiliative, affectionate, good leaders, less prone to depression, healtier.
They may be less individualistic and more cooperative. Used to sharing and adjusting to personalities. They can
compromise and overlook frustrating situations.
Downey and Condron reported that having one or two siblings was positively related to better social skills; additional
siblings did not provide more advantage.
Women who have recourse to fertility drugs have 25% chance of giving birth to more than one baby. Women are more
likely to release multiple eggs when they are older. Delaying parenthood can increase number of multiple births.
Health risks for infants of multiple births: fetuses have to compete for scarce resources in the womb and a majority are
more prematurely because the womb is too crowded. Twins therefore have low birth weight and babies of higher-order
births can have extremely low birth weighs – as little as half a kilogram. These infants are at a high risk of neonatal death.
The danger period may last several months. Premature births are more likely to suffer from neurological deficits.
Sibling effect – The older child’s personality more strongly affected the distribution of power in the relationship with the
younger sibling. Some children spend their entire childhood in hostile and aggressive environments or friendly
environments. Older siblings tend to be more domineering and younger ones are forced to be more compliant in the relationship. The
younger adapts their style of interaction in order to secure the older child’s goodwill.
By the time they were 12 or 13 years old, first born boys reported a more distant relationship with their younger siblings
than did first born girls. This is because older boys’ growing ties with a peer group. Second born children were becoming
more assertive and more willing to disagree with older boys. Girls maintain more intimate bonds with both siblings and
peers than do boys. Females begin at an early age their function of kin-keepers and emotional workers.
For a girl, having an older brother often represents a precious social resource in male-dominated peer groups.
When an older sibling is nice, the younger is also; when an older sibling is aggressive, so is the younger. This is less likely
to happen with pairs of older brothers and younger sisters. Thus, siblings are important agents of socialization to one
Adolescent girls who have a sexually active or childbearing adolescent sister, as well as similar peers are more likely to be
sexually active. Birth to a teenager may make it more difficult for mothers to supervise their younger children, as the
grandchild increases the new grandmother’s workload. Brothers are even more influential than sisters in the timing of
sexual intercourse. When older brothers remain abstinent, their behavior may reinforce parental teachings on sexual
restraint by giving them validity in the mind of younger siblings. Fraternal influence is less important than parental
attitudes and teachings on this topic.
Siblings influence level of happiness on each other.
Prosocial peers groups enhance one’s own prosocial tendencies. Prosocial peers are more likely to have authoritative
parents. When groups of peers have similarly oriented parents, the burden of supervision is lessened for each indivudal set
of parents, given that they all participate to some degree in the monitoring process. This is an effective community and
group or collective socialization.
When siblings are predisposed or share a deviant peer group, this raises the chance they will commit delinquent acts.
Parents must increasingly monitor such offspring and set more limits of their activities and whereabouts.
Siblings of a person with a disability develop an obligatory relationship and remain more connected, although not
necessarily close to the family. Siblings of a person with a mental disability are more distant and suffer form more
psychological difficulties than others in average families.
Parents have a higher level of well-being and closer relationship with a sibling with a mental delay than with a mental
illness. Siblings, like parents, are affected more negatively by behavioural and attitudinal problems than by intellectual
Siblings of special needs children generally get less parental attention, cannot as easily pursue leaisure activities, friends
cannot be invited home.
Older siblings can act as a buffer for their younger siblings at times of marital conflict or divorce, or in the event of a
parent’s illness or emotional problems. Divorce increases negative reactions between siblings.
Conflict between parents and even divorce dilutes the familial resources so stress and emotional deprivation pit each child
against each other for scarce parental attention. Stressors experienced by parents spill over into their childrearing practices
and lead to sibling friction. A portion of divorcing couples may have difficult personalities and their children may have
inherited these predispositions so that the children develop conflictual relationships among themselves.
Stepfathers increase fractuious ibling interactions. Boys reaching adolescence disengage more fromtheir siblings in
remarried than in married families. In families with two children, the presence of at least one girl enhances the chance that
a cohesive sibling relationship is established.
Deviant acts in children are related to weak bonds with parents. As children age and make life decisions, differential
treatment from parents may become more prevalent.
Adolescence mothers may be closer to one identical twin than to the other. Fathers show more interest in sons, particularly
first borns, and in children who have a more expressive personality. Parents who are stressed by poverty or marital conflict
or are depressed may favour one child. Mothers treat children in a manner appropriate to their age, and both are treated similarly at that age, but treated differently
in the present because they are of different ages. Mothers adapt their behavior to each child’s individuality and
developmental rhythm. The later-born child enters the family system at a different point in the family’s life course. The
mother is now more experienced as a parent, she may be busier or more tired. The context of the family (ie divorce or poor
financial situation) may have changed once a second child comes and may influence its upbringing (be different than the
Parents raise boys and girls to assume different roles in society. Fathers are more likely than mothers to make a distinction
between sons and daughters and are generally more involved with sons. Parents are reported as treating sons and daughters
increasingly different with age. Adolescent brothers were given much more freedom that older sisters had been allowed at
the same age.
The more valued males are in a culture, the greater the difference in parental treatment.
The sibling who enjoys more affection from the father has more ambitious educational and vocational goals. Children who
are more controlled by their mother or perceive receiving less affection than their siblings are more likely to be anxious or
depressed. They also tend to be more difficult.
Interactional perspective – suggests bidirectional causality. A difficult child may lead parents to be more controlling or yet
more permissive, or treated more harshly. A more ambitious child attracts paternal attention and encouragement.
In greater part, except for gender roles, parents respond to their children according to their personalities and behaviours.
Differential favouritism (negative consequences on family relationships) and differential discipline. When the older child
was disciplined more often than the younger one, the family functioned better than when it was the younger one who was
more disciplined. In the latter case, the parents were not taking into consideration the children’s respective developmental
levels. A younger child may not have developed the ability to meet such maturity demands.
Differential parental treatment that does not appear fair to children causes jealousy and resentment on the part of the less
favoured child. The less favoured may become more distant or express is or her resentment toward the preferred one.
Congruent parents (displaying more affection for same child) predominated over incongruent parents (each parent
preferring a different child). Incongruence tends to occur among couples whose relationship is stressed: these parents at
times form a coalition with different children against each other. When this occurs, the parent-child boundaries melt away
while boundaries between parents arise. This makes it difficult to raise children authoritatively. Parents who get along
maintain boundaries of the parental system and tend to agree on which child needs more support.
Bonds are closer between sisters than between brothers; sisters provide more help to each other as well as to other family
members than do brothers; a good relationship with their sisters is also important for their morale; elderly men who have
more sisters feel happier and more secure.
Siblings are more likely to be supportive of one another when parents are also supportive.
Stepsiblings have greater potential for conflict. Remarriages are brief and stepchildren do not always live in the same
household so these relationships often do not have time to blossom. When the remarriage lasts, stepsiblings often become
companionable and supportive.
Stepsibling relationship is closer when there are no full siblings. Half siblings and step siblings may be better able to bond
when the type of solidarity that generally exists between two fully siblings is absent. More conflict is reported between half
siblings and stepsiblings because they have at least one parent they do not share. Half and step siblings also help one
another less in old age. The longer stepsiblings have lived together as children, the closer the bond.
Siblings are different: each inherits a different combination of their parents’ gene pool; nonshared environment which
refers to environmental influences or experiences that differ for each child including birth order, peers, school experiences,
accidents and illnesses that affect one sibling but not the other; many transform much of their shared or familial
environmental into a nonshared one – occurs when siblings attach different meanings (symbolic interactism) to such things
as parental teachings to their individualistic personalities; different perceptions and reactions to shared environments.
Families that provide more of a shared environment: fathers and mothers are quite similar to each other as a result of
assertive mating; family integration – parents who engage in many activities with their children provide siblings with more cohesive and interative learning experience; when parents and children together engage in activities with other parents and
their children (collective socialization); when parents are able to send their children to schools that replicate their own
value system and lifestyle (rational theory – school and family overlap in what the children learn and each agent of
socialization reinforcing the other and offering social closure against the rest of the world)
Studies in twins indicate that genes indirectly play a role in the creation of a person’s environment. Genes and environment
both shared and nonshared, act together.
Socialization by the parents does count but within its genetic and environmental contexts.
Interactional-transactional theories that analyze causality from a multidirectional framework – fathers with antisocial
behaviours led to children having more behavior problems – from genetic, environmental, example.
Identical twins raised apart may give similar answers to their individual rearing environments. Their perceptions are more
similar than those of fraternal twins. Fraternal twins raised apart were less alike in terms of appearance and personalities
because of different reactions from their two sets of adoptive aprents.
These processes are easily understood through both symbolic and interactional theories: people create reactions that then
become part of their environment, and this in turn helps create their personalities and perceptions. These studies indicate
that genes indirectly play a role in the creation of a person’s environment; genes and environment that are shared and
unshared act together.
Some parents are more successful than others at influencing their children, because they have more personal resources and
the social context they live in is more compatible with their values. Disadvantaged environments often prevent children
from benefiting from their genetic strengths and their parents’ positive influence and thus these children frequently do not
fulfill their genetic potential.
Chapter 12 – Divorce, Widowhood and Remarriage
Divorce is a legal institution whose function is to separate spouses who can no longer live together.
History of legalization of divorce in Canada predates to England. Divorce was legislated mainly on the grounds of adultery.
It was not until 1968 that Canada enacted its first unified federal Divorce Act which was followed by the more liberal or
“no fault” act of 1985.
Divorce rates are not necessarily increasing. Divorced men re-partner more and sooner than women.
Probability for divorcing is lower in the first marriage and higher in a remarriage. Low rates in Maritimes may be a result
of a higher level of social integration, a more effective community, and demographic variables such as an older population.
Highest rates for Quebec may stem from cohabitation before marriage, lower religiosity, and more liberal and
Conjugal dissolution (cohabitations and marriages that end) – do couples that end cohabitation or married couples who
separate count as divorce?
Homosexual couples in Sweden have a higher risk of divorce. Lesbians have 77% higher chance than gays. Likely because
they are less likely to have children than heterosexual couples. Women’s same-sex partnerships may be more at risk
because of a stronger sensitivity to the quality of the relationship by women than men regardless of sexual orientation.
Couples are older when they divorce because they are marrying later. Average duration of marriages ending in divorce is
14.5 years. The highest number of divorces occur after 3 or 4 years.
Lowest serial divorce rates in Quebec because they tend to cohabit and Newfoundland because they have a much lower
divorce rate. Highest rates of serial divorces occur in BC, Alberta and Yukon. Over 20% of all divorces in Canada are a
repeat divorce for at least one of the spouses.
Presence of children lowers divorce rates. In remarriages, the presence of the woman’s children increases risk of divorce.
Custody to fathers is decreasing. Custody to mothers is decreasing. Higher rates of joint custody. Mothers prefer sole
custody but don’t mind joint custody if they are on good terms with ex or perceive him as a good father. Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that joint custody should not be granted when parents cannot communicate effectively with one another about
care of child.
Reasons fathers do not visit their children: presence of new children, geographical distance and duration of separation, low
income (constraints time, resources, lodging, availability). Children’s characteristics also play a role – fathers are less
likely to be closer to nonresident adolescents who have behavioural, mood and academic problems. They may discourage
fathers from getting involved, may be aversive and may place obstacles to visiting them. These same adolescents have less
support which may add to their problems. Children do better cognitively and behaviourally when their father remains an
Factors contributing to divorce:
Sociocultural factors: secularization trends, liberalization of norms concerning individual choice, and lower religiosity.
This is referred to as the desacralization of marriage. These trends came to influence the passage of more liberal divorce
laws. See marriage as individualistic; if partner does not meet needs they move to seek a new one that will.
Demographic factors: low-income couples are at a higher risk of divorcing; youthful marriage or cohabitation also
increases risk of divorcing or breaking up – those who marry in teens and early twenties have low educational levels and
low incomes who are factors to divorce; solo mothers tend to cohabit before marrying which bring risks when they do
marry; remarriages are a risk for divorce; sex ratio – men are more likely to divorce when there is a high proportion of
unmarried women with them in the labour force and same occurs for women who work in domains with a male majority –
this raises chances of sexual infidelity and forming new relationships; parental divorce – if you have divorced parents you
are more likely to divorce; cohabitation.
Poverty increases risk for divorce; divorce increases risk for poverty. Most women experience a decrease in household
income, moreso than men. Men who divorce are more likely to get out of welfare and women are more likely to go on it.
Divorce reduces mental and physical health. Alcohol abuse increases among divorced men and mothers with young
Adjusting to divorce is easier when a couple does not have dependent children and does not share many assets, such as a
For a woman, adjusting to divorce is easier when she is under age 35: a younger age gives higher chance of remarrying and
having a family in second marriage. Easier when she has been employed throughout her marriage or at least fairly recently.
Divorce is much more stressful and requires a great deal of adjustment at least for one spouse whena couple has children
who still live at home, when a couple jointly owns a home and shares other assets, the marriage was long and many habits
have to be changed, the couple is older thus less flexible, perhaps no longer employed, there is a loss of financial resources
and economic status, a husband and wife share all their friends, one or both in ill health or an alcohol or drug abuser.
After divorce, couples lose the in-law kin; more women than men lose friends after separation particularly when couples
share friends. Few women had lost those friends whom they already had before marriage or had maintained separately
duinr ghte marriage. The workplace became an important source of moral support at the time. Married men are less
threatened by divorced men than married women of divorced women.
Theories explaining how divorce affects children: economic explanation (reduced standard of living, less resources),
disruption of parenting (single parents are more busy and quality of parenting decreases), role of parental conflict (conflict
ridden families have more negative outcomes, stresses child), preexisting child conditions (a child that is dysfunctional in a
dysfunctional marriage may decrease tendencies after exiting marriage), genetic influence.
More widowed women than men. Widowed men remarry or begin cohabiting far soon than do widowed women. Widowed
women are more likely to be poor, but have long-term friendships and are more likely to make friends.
Among seniors, loss of spouse is often followed by mental confusion, helplessness, depression, physical vulnerability, loss
of interest in life. Length of grieving depends on personal resources, the social support received, how well prepared the
widowed spouse was for the death.
Children who have a deceased parent are less likely to have been subjected to parental conflict before the death and not
affected after; remaining parent is often left in a more favourable economic situation and may also be helped by life insurance benefits so poverty occurs less frequently; social rites of bonding through which sympathy is bestowed upon
children; remaining parent’s tasks of grieving, of caring for the children’s own pain and of behaving as a proper widow
delays his or her re-entry to the dating scene and children have more time with the parent; good proportion of parental
deaths occur in couples who had a stable marriage and the children are more likely to be stable individuals.
Children of widowhood may adapt better to parent’s remarriage because there is only one family, not two, like in divorce.
Remarriages are less stable because remarriages include persons who have already proven that they can divorce and may
be more accepting of divorce as a solution; spouses may be less willing to compromise and may become disenchanted
more rapidly; fewer norms that guide these relationships making it difficult for spouses to feel secure within roles; structure
of remarriage is more complex when children are brought in along with ex-spouses and ex-in-laws.
Children born into blended families may have more problems than children living with still married parents.
Grandparenting after divorce: Grandparenting when one’s adult child divorces, grandparenting after one has divorced at
some earlier point before grandchildren arrive, and ddivorcing after one is already a grandparent.
Maternal grandparents often help their divorcing children, especially daughters, both emotionally and instrumentally.