This study explored the effect of the gendered structure of siblings in
intact and non-intact families, on family relations, social support, perceived
control, and psychological distress in a sample of 708 young adults (294 males
and 414 females) aged between 18 - 21 years. Of the sample 96 were singletons,
208 had both a brother and sister, 206 had a brother and no sister, and 198 had
a sister and no brother. While the results show that both the gender of the
participants and the gender of the sibling seem to impact on distress and its
mediators; the more important factor is the gender of siblings. In essence the
presence of a female sibling is associated with more perceived support, control
and optimism, and with lower pessimism and psychological distress. The presence
of a female is also associated with better family relations overall and it is
suggested that the main mechanism for this positive impact of female siblings
is through the lowered conflict and increased expressiveness and cohesion
experienced in female versus male dominated sibling groups.
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