Sibling Rivalry: studying the relationships between siblings

This topic submitted by Anne Marie McNerney, Joy Marie Usner ( at 10:32 pm on 2/27/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Myers.

We hypothesize that the relationships between siblings as reported by students here at Miami will reveal that siblings will be more competitive at specific ages in specific areas. We hypothesize that students will report the highest rate of competition in the category of physical at the earlier stages of life, such as age 1 to 10. We believe competition will be reported as being the highest in the category of academics from the ages of about 10 to 15. From the ages of 15 to 20, we believe siblings will report the highest level of competition in the category of social.

We hope to gain a better understanding of sibling relationships at different developmental stages. We also hope to look at various altruistic theories, and see how they relate to our data. We hope to look at differences between reported competition between men and women here at Miami. We are interested in the differences that we think we will find between men and women and the categories they felt the most competition in at various stages throughout their life so far. We also hope to gain some sort of hold on the differences between the levels of altruistic behavior between social classes. We want to learn more about how a family functions with greater or fewer resources, and if the level of altruism or rivalry is somehow related to availability of resources.

This research is interesting because we are both siblings ourselves!!!! Altruistic behavior affects us all, be it if we are stranded on the side of the road with a busted tire, or in a pinch to finish a paper with no ink cartridge. It will be really interesting to see if people are predisposed to kindness, and how different sexes respond to people in need. We also are interested in how our own family structure and our birth order will affect how we treat other people. We will learn more about how the rivalry we experience with our own siblings affects our life experiences, and how we respond to our own and other’s experience.

Other scientists have looked at other species to gain some sort of understanding about sibling relationships. Hyenas and boobies have been observed at length to learn more about siblicide and extreme cases of sibling rivalry. There has been a lot of research done on birds. Birds will often kill a sibling so that they can have a greater share of the resources (food). In humans similar rivalry over resources has developed. Humans often fight ovcr the attention of parents, toys, space in shared rooms, etc. The theories on Darwin, Trivers and Hamilton have been applied to these situations.

Altruism is evident in situations beyond the nuclear family. International relationships are often based on altruism. The length of time a country has been established could be compared to birth order. Countries compete for resources, choose allies, and fight over territories. If we look at the world as a global village due to the ease with which nations interact similar to the way in which siblings interact.

For our experiment we have designed a survey to show the stages in which siblings are most competitive in various areas.

1. How many siblings do you have?

2. What is your birth order?
Oldest Middle (or close to it) Youngest

Choose one sibling, and answer the following questions with them in mind.

3. Rate in order the age at which you believe you were most competitive with them.
__ 0-5
__ 5-10
__ 10-15
__ 15-20
__ 20-25

4. At the age category mentioned, which specific area do you remember there being the most competition in? (Check the most appropriate category)
Academic Social Physical
0-5 ___ ___ ___
5-10 ___ ___ ___
10-15 ___ ___ ___
15-20 ___ ___ ___
20-25 ___ ___ ___

5. Would you rate, overall, your relationship with your sibling as being cooperative or competitive?

Our audience is male and female Miami students. We plan to distribute our survey to one hundred students, fifty male and fifty female. We think this will give us a good cross section of the population and enlighten us into some on the dynamics of sibling relationships of our peers. We have given the class a sample of our survey and are looking for ways in which we can improve it based on those results. We feel our experiment is statistically sound and will use Statview to produce graphs for further analysis.

We will integrate previous research and theories with our research to prove or disprove out theory. Hopefully we will be able to synthesize the information into one congruent concept. We have already acquired books and articles on sibling rivalry. Our timeline is as follows:

Week 9 (3/6-3/8): continue research ideas, work on proposal feedback, perfect quiz
Week 10 (3/20-3/22): Work on passing our quizzes. Try to do about half of them
Week 11 (3/27-3/29): Work on passing our quizzes. Try to do about half of them
Week 12 (4/3-4/5): Look at quizzes, begin figuring out how we want to analyze
Week 13 (4/10-4/12): Begin entering into Statview or whatever system is best.
Week 14 (4/17-4/19): Work on final paper, revise drafts
Week 15 (4/24-4/26): Turn in final project!

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