Discuss the similarities and difference between peer-peer interactions and sibling-sibling interactions in different contexts and consider the developmental implications of such interactions. It has been recognised by developmental psychologists that children’s first relationships and experiences have a significant effect on development. Whilst research has been mainly focused on the mother-child relationship, there has been an increase in research on children’s relationships with their siblings and peers, as it is believed that both of these relationships are important in child’s social understanding, and moral development.
This essay, will answer the essay question by discussing the general developmental significance of social interactions, and then discussing the similarities and differences between peer-peer interactions and sibling –sibling interactions, before explaining what the developmental implications are of these interactions in the home, school playground, and in a child’s culture. The essay will also briefly discuss the limitations of the studies carried out in peer and sibling interactions; however it is not possible, within the constraints of this essay to describe all of the limitations in any great detail.
Social interactions with others are very important for the development of all children, as it helps them to operate successfully in society. By learning how to interact with others in a healthy, positive, and productive manner, are not only important skills to have in childhood but in all of adult life as well. Although social interactions for very young children primarily occur within the family, as children grow and develop, they become more interested in interacting with other children.
It is through interactions with both siblings and peers that children establish a sense of “self”, learn communication, cognitive, and motor skills, as well as appropriate social behaviours, such as sharing, cooperating, and respecting the property of others. Children’s first relationships and experiences have been recognised by numerous development psychologists who state “that such relationships and experiences are important sites for development, with the sibling and peer relationships giving rise to distinctive experiences as each has its own developmental significance”(Littleton and Miell, 2005,p98).
Even though Sibling and peer interactions provide a child with different experiences they do have many similarities. One such similarity being that sibling and peer interactions are both horizontal and reciprocal, meaning that both interactions have the same balance of knowledge and power. Schaffer (1996) claims this means “that both children share the same interest and competence to a sufficient degree to tackle jointly the task of social understanding”.
The reciprocal interactions between siblings and peers can teach children many life skills such as “how to negotiate and co-operate with others, and how to resolve conflict” (Littleton and Miell,2005, p 96). Another similarity is that through joint pretend play e. g. Socio-dramatic play and thematic fantasy play, with sibling and peers, children develop social abilities and understanding. Socio-dramatic play is centred on home and family scenes, such as shopping, cooking and looking after baby, which “is important as it helps children to understand every day events, routine and rituals”(Corsaro, 1986, p101).
Thematic fantasy play is based on imaginary activities and fictional stories, e. g. a child creating an imaginary world, or acting out a scene from a book or film. Corsaro (1986) explains “This type of play has two major functions, firstly, it facilitates the development of interpersonal skills, giving a sense of trust and mutual support between children, and secondly also allows children to gain control over their fears and anxieties as by sharing them with other children they develop coping strategies. Stone (1981) believes “that both these types of play function as an anticipatory socialisation device”, demonstrating how through play children become aware of their culture, and their future roles in society. E. g in western societies, girls are more likely to be involved in socio-dramatic play focused on mother and baby, as this prepares them for future motherhood roles. In the other societies, such as Malawi, Ngoni boys play at law courts as they have seen their fathers in courts, and by imitating this process they become aware of their society and culture.
Sibling and peer interactions have many differences, for example the peer and sibling interactions are both horizontal that is reciprocal, however sibling interactions can also be vertical, and that is complementary, which means that children have different levels of knowledge and power. Schaffer (1996) claims “That an older child can act as a teacher, guide and model to a younger child. ” In contrast to the reciprocal interaction, complementary interactions can provide opportunities for learning for both older and younger siblings, e. g. An older sibling can learn how to be responsible, how to share with, and protect their younger ibling, whereas a younger sibling has a regular play mate, that they observed, imitate and learn from.
“It is the combination of knowledge and power in both reciprocal and complementary interactions that makes sibling relationships potentially so influential. ” (Littleton and Miell, 2005, p98)This is also highlighted in Dunn’s Cambridge sibling study (1988), in which it was discovered that children who participate in pretend play with their older sibling developed strong social skills, and could understand the emotional and mental states of others from a very early age.
Cutting (2006) states “that sibling interactions offer children the opportunity to develop social skills from comforting, sharing, and co-operation, to deceiving, manipulating and arguing. ” However even though siblings may fight and argue, their relationships are often affectionate, supportive, and intimate, meaning that because sibling’s spend a lot of time together, they know each other very well, thus there is a joint understanding and acceptance of each other, with no pressure to conform or fit it.
Gross (2005) declares that “the sibling relationship is among the most important and long lasting we experience, and whatever its emotional colour, the sibling relationship offers children unique opportunities for learning about others and themselves”. In contrast to sibling interactions many psychologists such as Harris (1998) and Pinker (2002) state “that it is within the peer group that socialization mainly occurs”.
When children begin school, the introduction of friendships and social interactions with other people outside the family unit, enable’s children to learn how to cooperate with others, solve disagreements, and gain mutual trust and respect from others. Littleton et al (2004) suggests that “in the school environment, the importance of being able to negotiate, manage differences of perspective and develop joint ideas, are important for a child’s learning and intellectual development.
However in contrast to the sibling interactions where there is a mutual understanding and acceptance of each other, “the more frequently children play together, the more there is a real pressure for children to develop skills necessary for initiating, engaging in and sustaining interaction together” (Littleton and Meill, 2005, p99). As children get older, fitting in with peers becomes more important, with peer interactions being both positive and at times very negative. Cherry (2005) states “that some children can be cruel, and peer interactions such as bullying can have a etrimental effect on a child’s experience of growing up”.
Children’s first social experiences occur in the home and are mainly centred on family members. The Open University (2006) states that “Experiences children have at home fundamentally changes the way they relate to the world. ” These experiences are the stepping stones to building future healthy relationships with others. Dunn’s Cambridge sibling study (1998) showed that joint play between friendly older and younger siblings helped younger children to develop social competence such as co-operation and collaboration.
However where siblings interactions were negative, children learnt how to fight and be aggressive towards others both at home and school, stopping them from making healthy and positive relationships. Opportunities for social interactions outside the home are also important for a child as it allows them to learn appropriate social skills. However if a close family unit does not invite others into their home, or socialise with others outside the family unit then this can have a detrimental effect on a child.
The open university (2006) states that “At the age of three, children should start to play together, as it’s vital if they’re going to make friends, and if children are still playing alone at the age of six there’s a greater chance that they’ll become isolated adults. ” The playground also has many developmental implications on a child, as it is where most children learn to socialise, interact and make friends. Blatchford (1994) argues that “playground experiences help children to develop sophisticated sets of social understanding, and important skills such as, learning how to regulate playground games, and how to manage teasing and bullying.
Playground games are important, as joint knowledge of the game can be used by children as a starting point for interactions, and can solidify pre-existing peer relationships. Play fighting is also very common in a playground setting, and many psychologists believe that it develops a range of social skills, such as communication and sharing skills and the understanding of another’s point of view. However there is a fine line between play fighting and actual fighting and “a crucial indication that children are play fighting is the presence of laughter, which is a successful form of social signal” (Littleton and Miell, 2005, pg103).
However play fighting can be used to assert power and increase status. Pellegrini (2003) argues “boys use play fighting to display physical aggression and dominance, and to establish peer status. ” Many studies have shown that bullying and aggression is common in the playground, yet Smith et al (1999) suggests” that even negative aspects of children’s experiences such as dealing with aggression can be useful in preparation for adult life. ” Such conflicts can enable children to identify disagreements, negotiate them with the other person, and by doing so learn to respect another person’s point of view.
Within the playground there is a children’s culture which Pollard (1987) believes is “constructed of many individual peer groups that have their own identity, culture morals and beliefs, and underlying ground rules that affects children’s behaviour for better or worse”. This shows that Peer relationships are complex as children bring a variety of behaviours, needs and understanding to their peer interactions, which influence a child’s experience leading to changes in a child’s future functioning.
What is fair and acceptable in each individual peer group is agreed in an unspoken “shared meaning system within a child’s culture that sets the emotional tone of exchange, and boundaries” (Littleton and Miell, 2005, p107) The research cited in this essay, has many limitations as psychologists have only recently begun to focus more on psychological development of sibling and peer interactions.
One such limitation is when observing children researchers have focused on the face to face interactions between children, and not considered that children are increasingly communicating through technologies such as mobile phones, and the internet as these give them privacy and independence. Another limitation is that most research has been carried out in western societies and does not consider children’s relationships in other cultures, e. g. relationships with parents and siblings and how much time a child spends with them.
Also in some cultures children work, and therefore their interactions with peers will be different from western children’s as these will happen at work and not at school. Despite the limitations in research, psychologists believe that sibling’s and peers play a vital role in a child’s social world, as they help to shape a child’s course of development. The sibling relationship is seen as longer lasting than any other and provides the groundwork for strong peer relationships.
In the home, sibling interactions become a natural classroom for young children to learn social skills such as controlling their emotions, conflict resolution and co-operation. However Interactions with Siblings can be negative e. g. they can be difficult, aggressive, manipulating, and can have poor developmental effects on a child, which Gross 2005 highlights are “aggressiveness, self-esteem and the understanding of social and mental states”.
However Peer interactions are also important contributors to a child’s future development as many psychologists believe that it is through peer interactions that children mainly learn how to socialise, and develop skills such as how to co-operate with others, solve disagreements, and gain mutual trust and respect from others. Interactions with both sibling and peers through pretend play help’s to develop interpersonal skills, and allows children to obtain coping strategies.
Play fighting is also important in the development of a child as it can help develop friendships, communication and sharing skills and the understanding of another’s point of view. However play fighting can also be used to display physical aggression and dominance, and to establish peer status. This can be limited by a shared meaning system in each individual peer group that allows boundaries to be made and for children to establish what is fair and what is not when interacting with each other.
Yet experiencing social conflicts allows a child to develop skills to manage and resolve conflicts with are important in adult life. Even though there are many similarities and differences in sibling and peers interactions, they both have important development implications as they help a child to develop social skills and acquire a social understanding of their culture and world.
Courtney from Study Moose
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