Sibling Conflict and Interpersonal Development
Conflict is defined as "the perceived and/or actual incompatibility of values, expectations, processes, or outcomes between two or more parties over substantive and/or relational issues" (Ting-Toomey, 1994, p. 360). It is natural part of life and interpersonal relationships. Conflict can be good, bad, or both and can present us with interesting challenges and opportunities. It can destroy relationships and expose our greatest weaknesses. When people think of conflict, they most often recall the negative aspects of the feature. However, it can also help strengthen relationships and resolve problems among other things. It is important to study conflict within the field of communication because communication is precisely the means by which people recognize and express conflicts. You simply cannot have conflict without communication of some form. Communication also aids in distinguishing between destructive and productive conflict. Conflict can be experienced and expressed in every type of interpersonal relationship; husband-wife, parent-child, boss-employee, between co-workers, classmates, friends, and lastly, between siblings. The type of relationship examined for the purpose of this literature review is the sibling relationship. Sibling relationships are important to study because they are a fundamental part of most people's lives. Much research has been done on such topics as marital communication and conflict, but research dealing with sibling relationships and conflict is relatively rare. This fact is surprising considering that 96% of American adults in the 1998 General Social Survey reported having at least one sibling (National Opinion Research Center, 1998). The sibling relationship is one of the longest relationships that most people have and in many cases, the strongest. It also differs from other interpersonal relationships because it is one of the few relationships that are not chosen. Because of this, it is possible that behaviors used by siblings differ from behaviors used by individuals in platonic or romantic relationships. Whether they are your best friend or you simply cannot stand them, the interactions you have with your sibling will serve as the "training ground" for dealing with future friendships and conflict situations amongst peers (McGuire, Manke, Eftekhari, & Dunn, 2000). Little is known generally about the relationship between conflict strategies and relational communication messages, and specifically within sibling relationships (Pawlowski, 2000, p. 272). Because of unique nature of this type of interpersonal relationship, more research is essential to the field of communication. As Pipher (2000, p. 257) said, "siblings are the people who have known us the longest, know the most about us, and share the most life events with us." For the purpose of this literature review, several studies have been examined. Topics of interest range from a relational maintenance in sibling relationships, affectionate communication between siblings, social and emotional support as a function of attribution confidence in brother-brother relationships, face and facework in conflicts between siblings, relational messages in conflict situations among siblings, and conflict as a developer of interpersonal skills. To develop a clear understanding of the subject, a topical order of the studies chosen will be used.
Sibling Relational Maintenance Behaviors
Relational maintenance behaviors are the actions and activities used to sustain desired relational definitions (Canary & Stafford, 1994). Two studies were done to look at the use of relational maintenance behaviors in sibling relationships. In the first study, the particular relational maintenance behaviors utilized by siblings were recognized. In the second study, "the link between the six relational maintenance behaviors used by siblings and the relational...
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Canary, D. J., & Spitzberg, B. H. (1990). Attribution biases and associations between conflict strategies and competence outcomes. Communication Monographs, 57, 139-151.
Canary, D. J., Stafford, L. (1994). Maintaining relationships through strategic and routine interaction. In D. J. Canary & L. Stafford (Eds.), Communication and relational maintenance (pp. 122). New York: Academic Press.
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Floyd, K., & Morr, M.C. (2003). Human affection exchange: VII. Affectionate communication in the sibling/spouse/ sibling-in-law triad. Communication Quarterly, 51, 247-261.
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Pipher, M. (2000). Strategies for protecting families. In K. M. Galvin & P.J. Cooper (Eds.), Making connections: Readings in relational communication (2nd ed., pp. 257-262.) Los Angeles: Roxbury.
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