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J Fam Psychol. 2014 Oct;28(5):634-44. doi: 10.1037/a0037811. Epub 2014 Aug 25.

Children's responses to mother-infant and father-infant interaction with a baby sibling: jealousy or joy?

Author information

Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan.
Center for Family Research, University of Georgia.
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.
Department of Education and Human Development, University of La Verne.


Firstborn children's reactions to mother-infant and father-infant interaction after a sibling's birth were examined in an investigation of 224 families. Triadic observations of parent-infant-sibling interaction were conducted at 1 month after the birth. Parents reported on children's problem behaviors at 1 and 4 months after the birth and completed the Attachment Q-sort before the birth. Latent profile analysis (LPA) identified 4 latent classes (behavioral profiles) for mother-infant and father-infant interactions: regulated-exploration, disruptive-dysregulated, approach-avoidant, and anxious-clingy. A fifth class, attention-seeking, was found with fathers. The regulated-exploration class was the normative pattern (60%), with few children in the disruptive class (2.7%). Approach-avoidant children had more behavior problems at 4 months than any other class, with the exception of the disruptive children, who were higher on aggression and attention problems. Before the birth, anxious-clingy children had less secure attachments to their fathers than approach avoidant children but more secure attachments to their mothers. Results underscore individual differences in firstborns' behavioral responses to parent-infant interaction and the importance of a person-centered approach for understanding children's jealousy.

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