Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Lori A. Roggman (Committee Co-Chair), Lisa K. Boyce (Committee Co-Chair)


Lori A. Roggman


Lisa K. Boyce


Kay Bradford


Julia Yan


Vonda Jump Norman


The sibling relationship is a unique and important context for infant and early child development. Despite the important role of siblings and the unique aspects of the sibling relationship, sibling interactions are largely overlooked by scholars as a resource of potential developmental support. Identifying and fostering developmentally supportive interaction (DSI) behaviors in sibling relationships may expand available supports for children’s early development and may also support family well-being.

This study used a sample of 15 child-toddler sibling pairs to identify DSI behaviors in interactions between young children and their toddler-aged siblings, determine if and how well DSI behaviors could be observed, determine the similarities and differences between DSIs in child-toddler and caregiver-child interactions, and identify child factors that were associated with DSI behaviors. Caregivers completed a questionnaire online in Qualtrics, answering questions about their children and family, their children’s sibling relationship, and their children’s play skills. Caregivers then recorded and submitted 10-minute videos of their young children playing together, these videos were coded by research assistants who were trained to identify DSI behaviors using an established measure of caregiver-child interaction quality, the Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO). Older siblings across the 15 sibling pairs were observed engaging in each DSI behavior and research assistants were able to reliably code videos for behaviors in the Affection, Responsiveness, and Encouragement domains. When compared to an adult comparison sample, DSI behaviors in young sibling interactions were less frequent, less complex, and lower quality than in adult-child interactions. Younger brothers received more encouragement support from older siblings than younger sisters. Older children who were older siblings provided more developmental support than younger children who were older siblings. Older siblings interacted with more warmth when the age gap was larger than when it was smaller. Older siblings reported by their caregivers to have higher levels of empathy/concern engaged in fewer DSI behaviors and older siblings reported by their caregivers to have higher levels of conflict/aggression engaged in more DSI behaviors. These results may provide guidance for supporting developmentally supportive sibling interactions at home and in intervention.