Emotion regulation in context: The jealousy complex between young siblings and its relations with child and family characteristics

Brenda L. Volling, Nancy L. McElwain, Alison L. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Jealousy is a social emotion that has received little attention by developmental researchers. The current study examined sibling jealousy and its relations to child and family characteristics in 60 families with a 16-month-old toddler and an older preschool-age sibling. Sibling jealousy was elicited in social triads consisting of a parent (mother or father) and the two siblings. Positive marital relationship quality (i.e., love and relationship maintenance) was a particularly strong predictor of the older siblings' abilities to regulate jealousy reactions in the mother sessions. Younger siblings' jealous affect with mothers was linked to the child's temperament, whereas older siblings' jealous affect with mothers was related to the child's emotional understanding. Younger siblings displayed more behavioral dysregulation in the mother-sibling triads if there was greater sibling rivalry reported by mothers. Session order (i.e., which sibling was challenged first in the jealousy paradigm) had a strong effect on both the affect and behavioral dysregulation displayed by the older and younger siblings. Results are discussed with respect to the need for future research to consider social relationships as developmental contexts for young children's emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-600
Number of pages20
JournalChild development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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