Siblings in lockdown: International evidence for Birth Order Effects on Child Adjustment in the Covid 19 pandemic

Claire Hughes*, Luca Ronchi, Sarah Foley, Caoimhe Dempsey, Serena Lecce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Supportive family relationships may mitigate the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on young children’s adjustment, existing work is limited by its focus on within-country variation and parental influences. Addressing these gaps, the current international study examined whether possible buffering effects of siblings differed by relative age (i.e., older vs younger siblings), household structure (i.e., lone-parent household) and sibling conflict (increased / decreased / unchanged). In the first wave of the Covid19 pandemic (April to July 2020), 2,516 parents of 3- to 8-year-old children living in Australia, China, Italy, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America – six countries with contrasting governmental responses to the pandemic – completed an online survey about family experiences and relationships and child adjustment, as indexed by ratings on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ: Goodman, 1997). Building on evidence for cross-site measurement invariance in parental SDQ ratings (Foley et al., 2022), our analyses showed that adjustment problems were reduced in children with an older sibling but were elevated in children from lone-parent households, in children with a younger sibling, and in the context of parental report of increased sibling conflict. We discuss these findings in relation to existing work on asymmetric effects of older versus younger siblings, and siblings as sources of support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Development
Early online date24 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • siblings/ birth order
  • COVID-19
  • adjustment/ internalising/externalising
  • conflict
  • lone-parent
  • international


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