Conflict management in adult sibling relationships: Differences in interpersonal power, sibling influence, and conflict tactic use among sibling types

Mary E. Donato, Megan R. Dillow


This study examined differences in conflict management-related perceptions and behaviors as a function of Gold’s (1989) adult sibling types. Participants were 157 adults who reported on their relationship with a sibling by completing a series of self-report measures about themselves and the sibling administered in paper-and-pencil format. Results revealed that adult siblings who classified their relationship as intimate perceived more positive sibling interpersonal power and parallel sibling influence, and were more likely to use prosocial conflict tactics with their sibling during conflicts. Conversely, adult siblings who characterized their relationship as apathetic/hostile were more likely to desire differentiation and to use dysfunctional conflict tactics during conflict with their sibling. In addition, across sibling types, perceptions of siblings’ power and influence predicted conflict tactic usage. This investigation extends available research by demonstrating destructive outcomes associated with the apathetic/hostile adult sibling type (e.g., increased use of violence as a conflict tactic). Further, across adult sibling types, this study provides insight into why emerging adult siblings use both constructive and destructive tactics during conflict with each other. 


adult sibling types; conflict management; interpersonal power; sibling influence; conflict tactics

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Copyright (c) 2017 Mary E. Donato, Megan R. Dillow

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Studies in Communication Sciences | ISSN: 1424-4896