Penn State program looks to teach siblings how to better communicate, resolve issues

A new prevention technique for elementary aged school children may offer a respite for families dealing with sibling rivalries and endless competition.

A new prevention technique for elementary aged school children may offer a respite for families dealing with sibling rivalries and endless competition, according to a study conducted by Penn State University's National Institute of Drug Abuse and the Children, Youth and Family Consortium, recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Solving this fighting, it is believed, can possibly improve future health and mental well-being in many facets of life for years to come.

SIBlings Are Special
The aim of the study was to curtail signs of sibling rivalry, opting instead for problem solving. Typical characteristics of immature fighting may include hitting, verbal confrontation in the form of name-calling and constant bickering, and many times it is the result of perceived preferential treatment of other children in the family by adults, notes the Mayo Clinic.

The study program, called SIBlings Are Special (SIBS), was implemented by Mark Feinberg, PhD, professor at the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development, and Susan McHale, MD, director of the Social Research Institute at Penn State, along with a number of colleagues. The study involved roughly 174 families in both rural and urban environments. To analyze the families who volunteered for the case study, researchers interviewed the parents and children separately. They also used extensive video surveillance to view how the siblings interacted together during play time.

After gathering background information, the program involved a series of 12 sessions that used different media to teach the groups of sibling pairs - one child in fifth grade and the other in either second, third or fourth grade - to better communicate in positive ways.

"When siblings come up with their own solutions, they may be more likely to use those solutions again in the future," said Feinberg.

Positive results
According to the study, those families who were assigned to the SIBS program reported higher social confidence, self-control and less depressive symptoms in the siblings, compared to the control group. These findings suggest that by integrating healthy social habits earlier in life, children may not need to take measures later in life such as to buy Effexor to treat symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders.

Though many siblings will fight or tease, parents can take steps to improve their children's relationship with each other by encouraging problem solving and discussion, notes the Mayo Clinic. By setting ground rules of what is and is not acceptable behavior and promoting good behavior, social interactions can develop positively into adulthood.