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Chapter 11

Chapter 11 Review

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Western University
Sociology 2235
Lauren Barr

Chapter 11 Review: Sibling Relationships and Situations Almost 80% of Canadians have at least one sibling; thus, it is a very important type of familial relationship, which also generally outlasts the parent-child relationship. When children reach adulthood, the sibling relationship in industrial societies, particularly those of western cultures, becomes discretionary. That is, continuing the relationship is a matter of choice and is secondary to the spousal and parent-child ones. In contrast, in other societies, continuation of the singling relationship into adulthood is the norm and is of fundamental importance for a familys integration into society at large. Sibling relationships, particularly between two brothers or two sisters, may actually be more consequential than their relationship with a spouse, both at the social and economic level still, in Canada, most adults perceive that they have obligations toward their siblings. The Sibling Relationship Begins The transition to a two-child family is one that parents have to help the first-born negotiate. Children who are between two and four years of age are particularly affected, because their entire life has been sent as their parents only child. Children who are older are more competent cognitively and can understand the situation better. Generally, whether the first-born child recognizes it or not, the birth of a second baby transforms his or her life entirely, as well as that of the family as a system. A new set of interactions is created, those between siblings. With the arrival of a second baby, the older child generally has a lower chance of experiencing a parental divorce: happily married couples are more likely to add another child to their family than couples who are not happy together. With the arrival of each baby, parents spend more time interacting with their children altogether, but they have less time for each child individually. With the arrival of the second child, the mother-child relationship often becomes less affectionate, particularly if the spacing between the two children is small and the family experiences a reduction in income per person. The mothers parenting style at times becomes more punitive and the older child may feel less securely attached. As a result of all these changes, the first-born child occasionally suffers from a variety of problems of adjustment, including anxiety, clinging behaviour, bed-wetting, and even aggressiveness. The childs reaction to the babys arrival is largely tailored by his or her personality as well as by the steps that parents undertake to reassure and involve him or her. Dunn (1994) points out that small children who are intense and less adaptable react more negatively to the babys arrival than children with a sunnier and more content disposition. The former may even protest when the mother pays attention to the infant. Consequences of Childrens Spacing With four years or more of spacing between the two children, the parents relationship with the first- born may continue to be exclusive during a portion of the day as the bay sleeps. With this much spacing, each sibling is in a way an only child, and little competition takes place. In terms of educational achievement, children do less well, on average, when they are closely spaced, as this holds true for to-children and larger families. When one child is several years older, however, the two children have different needs at different times and receive more individual attention. The older child is an only child longer and the younger child benefits both from having a sibling who is more developed and from parents who have more time for him or her. Much older siblings are more intellectually and socially stimulating for children than siblings closer to them in age: older children simply know more. Smaller children tend to look up to them. Consequences of Family Size In terms of number of children, those from large sibling groups generally do not do as well at school, on average, as children from smaller families. Neither do they advance as much professionally later on as do adults coming from smaller families. These results become less salient but nevertheless remain when parents social class is taken into consideration: even upper-class parents provide fewer resources per child in large families than in small families. The concept used to explain this family size effect is the dilution of parental resources. In effect, this means that parents have fewer resources for each child individually, whether in terms of time, attention, and even economic means in fact, mothers are les responsible to their children in larger families. Therefore, a large sibling group often dilutes the quality of the home environment available to each child. This occurs even more so when children are closely spaced in a large family, because they interact more among themselves and have less adult attention; they also learn less than they would with one or two much older siblings or alone with their parents. Aggressiveness also appeals more often in larger families, and children leave home earlier than in smaller families. But, of course, there are plenty of expectations to the rule and there are large families, particularly well-to-do ones, where all the children do very well at school or become high achievers in their professions later on. These families may benefit from other resources, such as the help of relatives and the presence of a large community of parents friends and colleagues who contribute to stimulate childrens intellectual development and serve as role models. The extended family increases resources and compensates for the dilution of the resources at the nuclear level, these families, in other words, have more social capital to offer each individual child. Further, as Zajonc and Mullally (1997) pointedly remark, there are advantages to large family size that are not measured by the research perspectives emphasizing achievement. For instance, it may well be that siblings growing up in a large family are more affiliative, more affectionate, good leaders, less prone to depression, or otherwise healthier. They may be less individualistic and more cooperative. They can compromise and overlook frustrating situations. However, the only reasonably recent and large-scale study on this topic has not found any family size advantage in terms of sociability and need to be with others. Downey and Condron (2004) reported that having one or two siblings was positively related to better social skills; additional siblings did not provide more advantage. On the other side of the equation, it is equally possible that some siblings in a large family suffer from a lack of individual recognition, feel oppressed by the social pressure within their intimate group, and are hampered by a lack of privacy. Such persons may adapt by growing up to be individualistic and may even distance themselves from the family group. However, despite having had less individual attention, there is no indication that adult children from large families are less attached to their parents nor their parents to them than in small families. Multiple Births o One aspect of the sibling relationship that is still not sufficiently understood is the relationship that exists between twins and multiples. Twins are much studied but are so within the perspective of behaviour genetics rather than simply as an interest in the relationship itself. Twins who are identical are fairly constant in the population: dissimilar twins, also called dizygotic or DZ, are more related to heredity, thus can run in families. Normally, thins and higher-order births occur in the population at the rate of 1-2%. o Women who have recourse to fertility drugs have a 25% chance of giving birth to more than one baby. Furthermore, women are more likely to release multiple eggs when they are older. Delaying parenthood consequently causes a rise in the number of multiple births. o Nearly all multiple births have two immediate health consequences for infants: the fetuses have to compete for scarce resources in the womb, and a majority of the infants are born prematurely because the womb becomes too crowded. Twins therefore have low birth weight, and babies of higher-order births can have extremely low birth weight. These infants are then at a far higher risk of neonatal death than singletons. Prematurely born infants are also far more likely thanothers to duffer from neurological deficits, whether learning disabilities or muscle coordination problems, although most of them make remarkable progress and most twins and triplets develop well. For parents, twin and multiple births require a far greater adjustment to parenting than does a single birth: more time demands; fewer economic resources available per capita; the necessity to seek and accept help, even from total strangers; and more health-related concerns. Child and Adolescent Sibling Relationships At the personal level, sibling relationships are determined by childrens characteristics, their personality similarities and differences, parents behaviour toward the children, and siblings perception of such, given that most of these factors are reasonable stable through each childhood, one can expect a certain degree of stability in the sibling bond. Generally, brothers and sisters whose personalities are compatible
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