Document Type

Honors Thesis



Publication Date



This study was designed to examine how people with siblings and people without siblings (only children) handle situations of interpersonal tension and confrontation. In order to examine this additional data about sibling status was collected via a follow-up survey from participants in a previous study. In the previous study, University of Maine female students were told that they were going to be assessed on a two-minute speech about their future plans and goals by a male participant in another room. Throughout this experiment physiological and self-report measures were taken. The 137 participants in this study were contacted via telephone and email and were asked to participate in the follow-up survey regarding their sibling status. Thirty five women answered the survey, 6 of whom were only children. Most were between 18 and 21 years of age, although one participant was 42 years old. The major hypothesis was that only children would show greater indication of stress than children with siblings. Despite the small sample size, some interesting results were obtained. Although there was no significant difference between those with siblings and those without for the baseline resting blood pressure, we found that during the two minute speech task only children showed a lower mean blood pressure than children with siblings. We also looked at self- report measures and another interesting thing was discovered. Here again, contrary to the hypothesized outcome, children with siblings reported higher depressed mood after receiving critical assessment when compared with only children. Additionally, a significant correlation was obtained between the number of years a participant lived with her siblings and her positivity about the upcoming task as well as her level of certainty with regards to her performance. The longer participants lived with their siblings the more they felt that the upcoming task was not a positive challenge and the more uncertain they felt about their performance on the task. A stress measure was computed by combining three of the stress questions: 1) the upcoming task is very stressful; 2) a poor performance on this task would be distressing to me; and 3) I think the upcoming task represents a threat. This stress measure correlated with the regularity with which siblings fought. The more a participant reported having fought with siblings, the more stress she reported about the upcoming task. Similarly, there was a positive correlation between the amount siblings fought and their blood pressure in the minute leading up to their speech task. Overall, the findings suggest that the experience with siblings during childhood may greatly affect the way those with siblings handle situations of interpersonal tension later on in life.

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