Siblings as buffers: Social problems and internalizing and externalizing behaviors across early adolescence.

Cassidy M. Fry, Eva H. Telzer, Christy R. Rogers

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Youth who struggle to maintain positive peer relationships are more likely to display emotional and behavioral problems, particularly during adolescence. Alternative avenues of social support may buffer against these maladaptive outcomes, particularly sibling relations, as they oftentimes predict adolescent outcomes above and beyond that of parents and peers. The present study examined the role of objective sibling warmth on the longitudinal association between social problems and maladjustment in a sample of 45 adolescent sibling dyads, further testing how effects varied between younger (Mage = 12.1; 24 females) and older (Mage = 14.5; 21 females) siblings. Sibling interactions were observed during cooperative and stressful problem-solving tasks, and later coded for expressions of warmth directed from one sibling to the other. Adolescent social problems and internalizing and externalizing behaviors were collected by multi-informant report and at a 1-year follow-up. Multilevel analyses indicated that adolescents with older siblings who exhibited more warmth were buffered against the effect of social problems on externalizing behaviors, with marginal effects for internalizing symptoms. Younger sibling warmth did not serve as a buffer for older sibling maladjustment. These findings emphasize the importance of considering how multiple dimensions of social support operate to influence functioning, particularly early in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)939-949
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • externalizing
  • internalizing
  • problem-solving
  • siblings
  • social problems


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