Sibling Warmth Moderates the Intergenerational Transmission of Romantic Relationship Hostility

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Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate sibling support as a buffer against the intergenerational transmission of romantic relationship hostility.

Background: Parental marital discord in adolescence negatively affects romantic relationships in adulthood. Given that sibling support is linked to positive outcomes in adolescence and adulthood, the current study investigated sibling support as a protective factor against romantic relationship hostility from adolescence to adulthood.

Method: Using prospective longitudinal data from a community sample, 351 participants completed home assessments during adolescence (7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th grades) and adulthood (Mage = 31 years old). Romantic relationship hostility was coded from videotaped observations of participant interparental relations in adolescence and participant behavior toward a romantic partner in adulthood. In addition, the participants reported on the support they received from a sibling in adolescence, which was modeled as a moderator between romantic hostility in adolescence and adulthood using structural equation modeling.

Results: Across sibling dyads, sibling support did not moderate the intergenerational transmission of romantic relationship hostility; however, sex differences revealed that sibling support buffered this effect in sister pairs, whereas sibling support exacerbated this effect in brother pairs. Sibling support moderated this association above and beyond parental support, socioeconomic status, and sibling age spacing.

Conclusion: Perceived sibling support can potentially ameliorate or catalyze the intergenerational transmission of observed romantic relationship hostility depending on gender socialization in the family. Implications for sibling-focused interventions are discussed.