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Sibling Ties in Middle and Later Life For most people, the sibling relationship is the first experience of an intimate relationship with a peer and may.

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Presentation on theme: "Sibling Ties in Middle and Later Life For most people, the sibling relationship is the first experience of an intimate relationship with a peer and may."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sibling Ties in Middle and Later Life For most people, the sibling relationship is the first experience of an intimate relationship with a peer and may shape our expectations of future family relations. Living longer, more alternative unions, and changes in partner status make sib ties more significant in middle and later life. Biological and step-sibs are added over the life course. Three major influences, family, pre-school, child care. Look at the issues and influence of gender and birth order and the counter balances of structured social relations and cumulative life experiences.

2 Sib Ties Contact with sibs-Today’s older person has at least one living sib (80% of those 65+) We will generally have sibling contact into old age. 1/5 persons aged have a step, adoptive or half-sibling compared to 1/ Proximity is a key factor in the Voluntary nature of sib relationships. Among women, sib contact is stable across age groups from mid-30’s to old age. 1/3 report weekly contact. Gender is strongly related to sib contact. At 65+ women are in greater contact than men of the same age.

3 Sib Contact Contact with sibs is twice as high among single as among ever- married and older persons without children have more contact with sibs than their parents. There is greater contact with sibs following marital dissolution or widowhood and these may trigger moves closer to siblings. The marital and childbearing history of parents affects sib contact Fewer hours of paid work enhance contact and retirement affords even more opportunity for older individuals.

4 Nature of Sibling Ties in Later Life Equity, maturity, loyalty, and individuality are four issues in childhood sib relationships. Aging reduces ambivalence by minimizing factors of maturity and individuality. Text quote “The need to actively strive for individuality declines with time” page 232 Typology of sib relationships-using the factors of closeness, envy, resentment, instrumental support, emotional support, acceptance, psychological involvement and contact provides four types-intimate, congenial, loyal, apathetic and hostile. The majority fall into the first three. 77% of older individuals consider one sib a close friend.

5 Closeness in Sibs Closeness rarely develops in old age. Sibs close as sibs in adulthood carry over from childhood. 70% of adults over 55 say they are close to at least one sib. Sibs tend to be closer to those at the same age and who share common interests. Sisters tend to be closer followed by brother/sister and then brothers. Material resources and social status differences tend to neutralize if sibs had close ties as children and parents did not differentiate in terms of gender or personal characteristics. Sibs as confidants-they are important in later life-22% of older people list sibs as one of their key confidants.

6 Closeness in Sibs 55+ chances of confiding in sibs is highest in women, the childless and those whose children are far away. Sibs are a large part of the confidant network for single men and women and among married or widowed sibs are more dominant in the network of women. Sibs form a larger component of the companion network of single women. Ties in Gay/Lesbian Adults-Dominant family forms include families of origin-see pages

7 Life Transitions and Sib Ties In Western culture, children, spouse and parents are at the top of the “obligation hierarchy” Changes in marital and parent status-40% of sib dyads believed sib ties were affected by their own or sib marriage. Arrival of children, theirs or sibs affected sib ties and 75% reported greater emotional closeness, improved relations, and greater contact. Gay and Lesbian older persons who are childless are also likely to invest in relationships with nephews and nieces.

8 Shared Caring for Parents The need to support aging parents is a transition in sib relationships and can be a basis for conflict as commitments to parents are negotiated. Close sib relationships tend to facilitate parent caring and more likely to share care. Caring for parents may change networks and caring arrangements and can be potentially full of conflict. Sibs with paid work and family responsibilities or geographical separate can feel they have good reasons to not share care. Sisters are more likely to provide care and proximity is a key variable.

9 Caring for Parents For married parents needing support, proximity tends to make the child the responsible party. The parents tend not to have a gender preference but they prefer married daughters over sons if they are equally available. Father’s death may change gender preferences to aid widowed mother and alter sib ties. Among women, those with more sisters provide more hours of care. Sisters tend to have a stronger ethos of support, which may also be a function of family size. Women sibs are more likely to receive financial help from parents. Parent care needs predict the number of sib hours of support.

10 Caring For Parents Sisters provide a range of help to parents that equals or exceeds that given by their brothers regardless of their relative competing commitments. As a rule-women who live nearby, unattached, in better health, have more income, no job or less demanding jobs are more flexible in care-giving and carry more responsibility for parental support. This reflects the gendered nature of family care. Marital status may be an additional source of inequality and difference in power in negotiating family relationships. G/L may care for parents in part because they are often assumed to be single

11 Care for Parents After death of parent, weak sib ties may dissolve. Strong sib ties may renew original family ties. Some conflict may be present around legacies and estates Support Exchange among Sibs Sibs are potential care-givers particularly if there is no spouse or children. This support includes co-residency and long term support in the case of illness. Most emotive ties are between sisters and marital status has a key bearing on sib support. Divorce, illness, widowhood are key variables.

12 Summary The trend to smaller families in the future could result in reduced loyalty and increased competition among sibs. Also new sib combinations and extended family networks will complicate sib support systems. Having only one sib may heighten interdependence and intensity of sib relationships The increase in divorce and absence of spouses may also lead to re-establishing sib bonds at an earlier stage in the life cycle.


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