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Negotiation of Status between Siblings: A Case Study

Myha Ngo


Marjorie Harness Goodwin

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 34


Issues of dominance and hierarchy can be found in many interactions and relationships. Through examining everyday family interactions, it is evident that issues of power pervade not only parent child relationships, but also interactions between siblings. As Dunn (1996: 197) has argued, by comparison with interactions among friends, children’s relationships with their siblings do not have to be “worked at” to ensure their continuation. Thus, children who care deeply about maintaining continuous equable communication with their friends may display a different orientation with family members, especially siblings (Ibid.). As Dunn (1988) has argued, the self interest of one sibling is often at odds with that of the other. Such sibling conflicts are not necessarily harmful; they in fact “drive the emergence of a ‘practical’ understanding of others people’s feelings and intentions” (Zukow-Goldring 2002:272). In addition conflict provides practice in negotiating mutual consensus (Shantz and Hobart 1989). This paper examines such issues with respect to a particular family in the CELF study.

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