Purpose: A growing body of research documents the significance of siblings and sibling relationships for development, mental health, and behavioral risk across childhood and adolescence. Nonetheless, few well-designed efforts have been undertaken to promote positive and reduce negative youth outcomes by enhancing sibling relationships. Methods: Based on a theoretical model of sibling influences, we conducted a randomized trial of Siblings Are Special (SIBS), a group-format afterschool program for fifth graders with a younger sibling in second through fourth grades, which entailed 12 weekly afterschool sessions and three Family Nights. We tested program efficacy with a pre- and post-test design with 174 families randomly assigned to condition. In home visits at both time points, we collected data via parent questionnaires, child interviews, and observer-rated videotaped interactions and teachers rated children's behavior at school. Results: The program enhanced positive sibling relationships, appropriate strategies for parenting siblings, and child self-control, social competence, and academic performance; program exposure was also associated with reduced maternal depression and child internalizing problems. Results were robust across the sample, not qualified by sibling gender, age, family demographics, or baseline risk. No effects were found for sibling conflict, collusion, or child externalizing problems; we will examine follow-up data to determine if short-term impacts lead to reduced negative behaviors over time. Conclusions: The breadth of the SIBS program's impact is consistent with research suggesting that siblings are an important influence on development and adjustment and supports our argument that a sibling focus should be incorporated into youth and family-oriented prevention programs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Psychiatry and Mental health