Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Travis E. Dorsch


Travis E. Dorsch


Randy Jones


Kay Bradford


Shawn Whiteman


Richard Gordin


Sibling relationships are typically the most enduring relationship in the family unit. A large body of research documents how sibling relationships occur in the context of the immediate family, how they impact behaviors such as risk-taking, how different cultures view siblings, and how similarities and differences among siblings can be attributed to genetics as well as shared and non-shared experiences. However, one relatively common family context in which sibling dynamics are less understood is organized youth sport. The present dissertation was designed to address multiplegaps in the present literature. This dissertation is comprised of two complementary studies. Study 1, guided by a family systems perspective and a social constructivist epistemology, employed a qualitative methodology in an effort to better understand individuals’ experiences of the processes and mechanisms that impact family and sibling relationships in organized youth sport. Study 2 addressed two competing mechanisms of socialization, modeling and differentiation, employing a quantitative methodology to examine older siblings’ impact on younger siblings’ participation in organized youth sport. Results from Study 1 show that similarities exist among and between family units. Specifically, families experience both warmth and conflict in sibling relationships, in addition, modeling and differentiation behaviors are reported in multiple families. Of note, a unique pathway of influence (i.e., Parent-Initiated Differentiation) was recognized. This exploratory study helped give voice to families that have children that participate in youth sport. Study 2 results point to the main effect of biological sex being associated with siblings not being in the same main sport. In addition, a three-way interaction between younger siblings’ reports of differentiation x dyad biological sex x and age difference was significantly related to siblings reports of not being in the same main sport. Taken together, these results help enhance youth sport literature by pointing to reasons why siblings would or would not follow each other in their youth sport decisions. Further examination is needed to understand behaviors of modeling and differentiation in youth sport, specifically, how parents influence modeling and differentiation behaviors among siblings.