The Development of Violent Behavior: Linking Sibling and Peer Aggression

Gretchen R. Ruth, The Pennsylvania State University

A common, yet little understood phenomenon is aggression and violence between siblings. This research examines the role of the family, including parents and siblings, as well as peers on the development of this physically aggressive and violent behavior. Using longitudinal data of individuals representing two stages of development and their families, this study identifies patterns of aggressive behavior toward siblings over time and determines which factors, both concerning individual and concerning family relationships and processes, predict changes in sibling aggression. In addition, this research will determine if and how sibling aggression is part of a general pattern of aggression and violence by using behavior between siblings to predict aggression targeted at peers. Preliminary analyses revealed that aggression between siblings is predicted by hostile sibling relationships, including early verbal aggression tendencies, perceptions of differential treatment by parents, and the gender/age structure of the sibling dyad. Additionally, those individuals who are more likely to enage in sibling aggression over time are also more likely to be displaying similar aggressive behaviors toward their peers, suggesting the continuity of aggression over time and across relationships.

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Updated 05/20/2006