Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Larson, Julie Hakim

Keywords

Psychology, Emerging adults, Identity, Narrative identity development, Sibling conflict, Siblings

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

The purpose of the current study was to examine how sibling conflicts are processed and integrated into emerging adults' narrative identity. A total of 238 participants completed questionnaires and wrote about a sibling conflict. Fifty-five siblings of participants also completed the study allowing for a sample of 55 sibling pairs. Qualitative exploration indicated that the causes of sibling conflicts were related to the developmental tasks of the emerging adult participants (Arnett, 2004), suggesting that siblings use conflicts as opportunities to negotiate developmental challenges. Data from the total sample of non-matched target participants were used to test the initial steps in Pals' (2006) model of positive self-transformation in adulthood. Results indicated that exploratory narrative processing was related to ego development, but coherent positive resolution was not related to life satisfaction. In addition, male target participants who identified a female sibling as their sibling closest in age (who met the age criteria) had higher ego levels than male target participants who identified a male sibling. Examination of matched sibling data (i.e., subsample of target participants matched to their siblings) revealed that exploratory narrative processing, self-reported emotion complexity, and ego levels of older siblings positively related to the exploratory narrative processing, self-reported emotion complexity, and ego levels of the younger siblings; also, greater sibling warmth perceived by the younger sibling was associated with higher ego levels of the younger sibling. Having greater sibling warmth and an interdependent selfconstrual positively related to coherent positive resolution. Feelings of mastery, greater sibling warmth, and a high level of independent and interdependent self-construals positively related to life satisfaction. Matched sibling data indicated that the younger siblings' perception of sibling warmth moderated the relation between older and younger sibling levels of life satisfaction. Overall, this research shows that sibling conflicts are integrated into one's life story by developing and elaborating on internal narratives of the event, which in turn fosters ego development. This study also highlights the role of sibling warmth in narrative identity development. These results have the potential to inform sibling intervention programs by highlighting the importance of fostering sibling warmth in addition to conflict resolution for adaptive development.

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