Advantages of Having Siblings: Sibling Imitation and Social Relationships

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1491 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 1491|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Hypotheses and Research Design
  3. Coding and Data Analysis
  4. Results: Age and Type of Siblings Imitation
  5. Implications and Limitations
  6. Future Research Directions
  7. Works Cited


This study examines how sibling imitation influences social relationships and the advantages of having siblings, while also examining different types of imitation, including verbal and nonverbal. Verbal imitation is when a person copies what the other says. Nonverbal imitation is when a person copies the actions of another. Through this quantitative longitudinal study, researchers conducted this study for the purpose of determining “how siblings’ co-construction of shared meaning via imitation affords different developmental opportunities and challenges” (Howe, 2018, p. 4). Since this article was written in 2018 by researchers with a background in social sciences and humanities, this study is both current and credible. After studying and reviewing previously asked questions on the topic of childhood and sibling imitation, these researchers formed multiple hypotheses. To answer the first set of questions, the researchers hypothesized that “younger siblings would imitate more than older... [but if] younger siblings are more active and sophisticated partners for their older siblings, they may possibly be more likely to be a model for their older siblings... [and] that imitation would most likely occur during reciprocal play interactions” (Howe, 2018, p. 4). The second set of questions led to the hypotheses including, “that both siblings would engage in verbal imitation and proportionally more so at T2... [and that] second-born 4-year-olds would engage in more imitation than first-born 4-year-olds' (Howe, 2018, p. 5).  

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Hypotheses and Research Design

In their studies, the researchers used the theory of the relationship as a guide. This theory conveys the idea that close relationships lead to advances in both cognitive and social growth within children. This theory gives the idea that relationships can benefit a child’s development, but also lead to growth in the child’s social behavior through imitation. Since one of the closest relationships a child has is with their siblings, the use of this theory could predict how imitation may be a prominent factor in a child’s behavioral growth.

The participants in this study included a group of 40 families that consisted of two parents and two children. These families were all considered middle-class and were found in Ontario, Canada through newspaper advertisements. There were a variety of sibling pairs, meaning that there were both same-sex pairs and mixed-sex pairs of siblings. At the beginning of the experiment, the older sibling’s ages ranged from about three and a half to nine years old, and the younger siblings ranged from about two to two and a half. The siblings were compared at T1 and T2, where T1 was the older siblings around four years old, and T2 was the younger siblings when they became around four years old.  

Since this experiment was a longitudinal study, the research was done over the span of two years in two parts. Each family was observed for nine hours in each part, so an overall of 18 hours studied. At the very beginning, observers and the families underwent practice observations to make it feel more comfortable for everyone when the real experiments began. The families were observed in their homes doing normal, routine activities, so long as they did not use any electronics. These “normal” activities allowed family members to go anywhere in their house and take part in most activities they do daily.  

Coding and Data Analysis

Using a recorder, the researchers recorded language and behaviors using codes that categorized and provided further detail of the behavior being studied. The researchers also made sure to record the situations when these behaviors or different languages would occur. The recorded codes were then written down to determine if or when siblings engaged in imitative behavior. Instances of imitation were then determined using a new coding scheme. The researchers then decided to use “three-step sequences [that] were defined by (a) the model’s behavior... (b) the sibling’s imitation... [and] (c) whether the model responded (or not) to the imitation” (Howe, 2018, p. 6). These were then examined and coded for basic characteristics the research required. The researchers then tested for reliability to ensure their results were accurate. This data showed that the codes and data were reliable.

When determining the results of the experiment using ANOVAS, the researchers used many different analysis tools, including Greenhouse-Geisser estimates, post hoc comparisons, the Bonferroni correction, and proportion scores to help determine and compare rates of imitation. Most of the results compared the differences between younger and older sibling imitation. When comparing same-sex siblings and mixed-sex siblings, imitation was more frequent in siblings of the same sex. When examining age differences in imitation, younger children were revealed to imitate more than their older siblings, which was in line with the hypotheses. Younger siblings were also found to imitate more at T1 while older siblings imitated more at T2. Regarding the type of imitation, verbal imitation was more frequent than nonverbal. However, nonverbal imitation was more present at T1 and verbal was more present at T2, supporting the prediction that verbal would be more present at this age. The research also supported the hypotheses in that imitation was most enhanced during positive play than any other activity.  

Results: Age and Type of Siblings Imitation

When examining the ages of the siblings, at T1 older siblings did not imitate as much as their younger siblings did at T2. This information also supported the hypotheses that younger siblings are more likely to practice imitation. When discussing the type of imitation, verbal was more apparent with the younger siblings (T2), and nonverbal was more apparent with the older siblings (T1). Also, researchers found that younger siblings more frequently imitated during play, while older siblings imitated during random activities. Older siblings were also found to positively react to their younger siblings imitating them, but younger siblings had little to no reaction if they were imitated.  

Implications and Limitations

There are some limitations to this study, but not too many. The main one was the small sample size since this experiment was conducted over the course of two years. The participants were mainly Caucasian middle-class people from the same area. Perhaps if more participants from different areas and of different races were used, the way the children were being raised may or may not have affected the results.  

However, this study had many strengths since it did go into a lot of detail about sibling imitation. By studying the different types of imitation, different ages, sexes, contexts, and more, readers have a clear understanding of when or if siblings imitate one another. Through observation, children grow their social and behavioral skills. By observing a close relative such as a sibling, children do not have to travel farther than their home to be able to advance these skills.

Since this study examined ages and when siblings imitate, we can determine that younger siblings benefit from having older siblings since they were more likely to imitate their older brother or sister than the older siblings did at that age. Since my research is based around imitations effects on child behavior, siblings are a prime example. My research is focused on the aspects of imitation that would affect behavior including the type of imitation, age of the children, and the amount of interactions. This study provides detail to each of these factors.

Both nonverbal and verbal imitation were compared to investigate if there was a difference between the types and sibling imitation. Age differences were accounted for and studied since this experiment happened over the course of two years and each sibling had to be within a certain age range in order to participate. The experiment then revealed that age did have an impact on sibling imitation since the younger siblings imitated more than the older siblings. And lastly, regarding the amount of interaction, since these children were siblings it can be assumed that they spend a large amount of time together. This amount of interaction, even just within the 18 hours of observation, shows that siblings have a greater chance of imitating one another since they spend much of their time together.

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Future Research Directions

Although most of the ideas that I was in search of were included in this study, I still think more research would benefit my topic. This further research should be based on more behavior outcomes. This study did a good job at explaining how the siblings engaged in imitation but did not provide many details on how this imitation led to a lot of growth in their social skills. True there was some development since the younger siblings were learning through observing their older siblings, but it did not mention how this would relate to these children with their peers instead of their siblings. This would be a great idea to investigate to see if children use their imitation skills to socially advance with people outside of their families. Other than that information, I think that this experiment did a great job at examining how imitation in children develops and shows in siblings. 

Works Cited

  1. Howe, N. (2018). How Sibling Imitation Affords Different Developmental Opportunities and Challenges. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(9), 1032-1039.
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Advantages of Having Siblings: Sibling Imitation and Social Relationships. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Advantages of Having Siblings: Sibling Imitation and Social Relationships.” GradesFixer, 04 Aug. 2023,
Advantages of Having Siblings: Sibling Imitation and Social Relationships. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Apr. 2024].
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