JOURNAL OF RESEARCH ON ADOLESCENCE, 20(2), 287–306 r 2010, Copyright the Author(s)

r 2010, Copyright the Author(s)
Journal Compilation r 2010, Society for Research on Adolescence
DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00641.x
Mother–Child Conflict and Sibling
Relatedness: A Test of Hypotheses From
Parent–Offspring Conflict Theory
Gabriel L. Schlomer and Bruce J. Ellis
The University of Arizona
Judy Garber
Vanderbilt University
Parent–offspring conflict theory (POCT) has been underutilized in studies of human family
dynamics. An implication of POCT is that the presence of siblings will increase conflict in
biological parent–child dyads, and that half siblings will increase that conflict more than full
siblings. Evidence consistent with this prediction was found in a longitudinal study of 236 early
adolescent children and their mothers. Following parental disruption, the entry of younger
maternal half siblings into the home was uniquely associated with elevated conflict between
mothers and their biological children, independent of the effects of family size, socioeconomic
status, and maternal depression. As predicted by the model, the effect of parental disruption on
mother–child conflict was partially mediated by the entry of half siblings (but not stepfathers)
into the home.
Much research implicates the quality of parent–child relationships as an
important determinant of an array of child and adolescent outcomes such as
academic achievement, pregnancy risk, substance use, and various other
indicators of child functioning (e.g., Amato & Keith, 1991; Ellis et al., 2003;
Gutman & Eccles, 1999; Hetherington, Henderson, & Reiss, 1999; Maguen &
Armistead, 2006). One well-replicated finding within this literature is that
adolescents growing up in acrimonious family contexts, marked by high
levels of parent–child conflict, have more behavioral adjustment problems
(internalizing and externalizing), more difficulties in school, and generally
feel more distressed than their peers from more harmonious families (ElSheikh & Elmore-Staton, 2004; El-Sheikh & Flanagan, 2001; Flinn, 2006). Such
Requests for reprints should be sent to Gabriel L. Schlomer, John and Doris Norton School of
Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Arizona, McClelland Park, 650 N. Park Ave., P.O.
Box 210078, Tucson, AZ 85721-0078. E-mail: