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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
SALAS, A. V. (2004). How the Presence or Absence of a Sister is Related to Disclosure in Mother-daughter Relationships . National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 7. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved October 3, 2022 .

How the Presence or Absence of a Sister is Related to Disclosure in Mother-daughter Relationships

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (eyhammer@loyno.edu)
AbstractThe purpose of this study was to examine the amount of disclosure in mother-daughter relationships for participants with a sister compared to those without a sister. There were forty-seven female participants. All the participants were over the age of eighteen, had a living birth mother, and parents were still married. The amount of disclosure was measured by a survey that asked personal questions. The types of questions went from broad to serious like: “Do you consider yourself close to your mother/sister?” To, “How much does your mother/sister know about your sex life?” Hypothesis one was that if a sister was present there would be greater disclosure of personal information to the sister than to the mother. Hypothesis two was that if participants without a sister would disclose more in mother-daughter relationships, compared to those participants with a sister. Although the results did not support the hypotheses, there were some findings of interest, including one told their sister about their first kiss but not their mother.

How the Presence or Absence of a Sister is related to the Disclosure in Mother-Daughter RelationshipsA growing number of research has indicated that the family is clearly the most important relational influence on a child’s emotional development. A main focus in this research has been the importance of the parent-child relationship for the child’s wellbeing and healthy emotional functioning (Lerner, Easterbrooks, & Mistry, 2003). It has been agreed upon by developmental psychologists that the family is one of the most important organizations influencing child development and growth. Children have some of their first experiences with their emotions such as anger, fear, joy, anxiety, and happiness is in relation to their relationship with their parents. That is why it is so important for this relationship to be a positive one. The child needs to feel a sense of acceptance, emotional availability, and sensitivity from their parents. For the parent child relationship has been found to have a substantial effect on children’s emotional and personality development, so one can develop into a healthy adult (Lerner, Easterbrooks, & Mistry, 2003). The present study will focus primarily on mother-daughter relationships as well as sister relationships. The study looks at the aspect of considering one’s mother or sister as a friend to whom they can disclose personal information. We see a friendship here as something that reflects the presence of a close, mutual and voluntary relationship. A friend is someone that you can talk to without fear of rejection or judgment.Relationship is a word associated with families. Families have all types of different relationships among them. It is one of the key aspects we will be focusing on in this study, especially that of having a close relationship with either your mother or your sister. Sibling relationships are the longest lasting relationship that most of us will have. Sibling relationships are described as emotionally uneven, that is to say at one point of time siblings will be pleasant while at others cold. Sisters are said to be more warm and open compared to brothers in a relationship. Siblings are important by playing a number of positive roles in each other’s lives. They are a socializing agent, a support system, and for almost every circumstance accept you for who you are. It is especially important in early and middle childhood to have the socializing aspect, which implicates in the development of the theory of mind, understanding of emotion, empathy, as well as prosocial and antisocial behaviors (Deater-Deckard, Dunn, & Lussier 2002). Siblings as stated earlier can serve as tremendous support systems, especially during times of great stress (Dunn, 1996), particularly if one or both children are girls. Dunn also noted that siblings could become closer and more supportive during times of stress such as a divorce. The mother daughter relationship is also a key focal point in the present study, however there was a lack of past research that focused on the subject. This is one of the reasons we chose to study this important relationship further. For the purpose of this study we have defined relationship as how one maintains communication over time. One factor that plays a major role in whether or not a family relationship is going to be a positive one or not is the level of closeness the members feel towards each other.“Closeness is a critical component of the human experience. Of all the relationships one forms in a lifetime, it is often the close personal ones by which a person measures the quality of life.”(Floyd, Kroy, Parks, & Malcom R., 1995) Closeness is said to have many components. Strength, amount of contact both physical and emotional, activity, and the actual length of the relationship itself are just a few of these components. A problem with trying to measure closeness in our study is that the word itself has a different meaning to each person. Therefore it is difficult to compare old studies and findings to our research. To help with this problem we have defined closeness as being able to share openly with your mother or sister about your personal life without hesitation or stretching of the truth. A self-made scale, the relationship disclosure scale, was made to assist us even more in measuring the variables of closeness. Disclosure is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as: to expose, to view, as by removing a cover; uncover, and to make known (something heretofore kept secret). The present study defines disclosure as how much personal information you share with your mother. Disclosure of personal information is a key variable to which we are measuring closeness in mother-daughter relationships. The decision to disclose personal information about oneself to someone else is not to be taken lightly. Self-disclosure depends on the very characteristics of the discloser as well as the receiver. Disclosure may be seen as a unique relationship that exists between two individuals. Since the decision to disclose reflects characteristics that are not located exclusively in either the target or the discloser, research must therefore study the influence of distinctive relationships between individuals. Meaning to what extent does the level of disclosure in a particular relationship depend on the unique combination of individuals and unique interaction dynamics, aside from individual differences (Kenny, 1994b)? Self-disclosure itself in research today is seen as an important phenomenon.An unspoken set of rules appears to shape the self-disclosure process for people. One of these rules involves matching the level of intimacy, intensity, and content with the one you are disclosing to. Naturally, self-disclosure involves feelings of vulnerability and anxiety when one is unable to predict the listener’s response or reaction. Self-disclosure is generated in the private sphere of one’s personal self-consciousness (Quatman & Swanson 2002).From a developmental aspect self-disclosure has been linked to adolescent relationships and their identity. Self-disclosure is seen as contextual and international when an adolescent decides to partake in it. Self-disclosure is generated by the desire for self-expression and social association; it is shaped by characteristics of disclosure to the audience. The task itself is vital developmentally (Quatman & Swanson 2002).From the beginning of self-disclosure studies, differences in males and female disclosure patterns have remained a main focus. Beginning in childhood, girls engage in more conversation with peers (Derlega et al., 1993). The highest levels of disclosure for both genders exist between teenagers and their same-gender close friends (Hill & Stull, 1987). These are reasons why the present study is focusing only on female participants. The present study will focus on the following variable: mother-daughter relations, sister relations, disclosure of personal information, and closeness with mother/sister. We chose these variables because a study of this particular nature has not been done before. Also, with the importance of family relationships and disclosure we feel the two coincide well with each other. We are trying to discover a link between mother-daughter relationships and whether a sister is present or not. Meaning we are trying to find out if one will discloses personal information about herself to her mother if a sister is not present. We hypothesizes if (a) sister(s) is present there will be greater disclosure of personal information between sisters than with the mother. Furthermore if there is an absence of a sister there will be greater disclosure in mother-daughter relationships compared to those participants with (a) sister(s).

MethodParticipants Eighty female Loyola University students (40 with (a) sister(s) and 40 without) of eighteen years of age or older, whose birth parents were still married and whose birth mother was still alive participated in this study. All participants participated under free will and by volunteering. All participants were treated under the ethical principles outlined by the American Psychology Association.Materials A (self-made) scale called the relationship disclosure scale was used to measure both disclosure and closeness to either a sister or mother. There are eighty-three questions in the sister closeness scale along with forty-four questions for the mother disclosure and closeness scale. There are quantitative and some fill in the blank questions on our survey. An example of the quantitative is rank on a 1-5 scale with 1 being nothing and 5 being everything how much does your mother know about you? An example of a fill in the blank question is how many siblings do you have?Design and Procedures This study is a no-experimental, correlation design. When the participants arrived at the study location, they were seated and provided with a basic introduction to the study and its general purpose. They were handed two copies of the consent form both of which they signed, keeping one for their records and turned the other one in. The participants were then handed the survey packet, which included the questionnaire. They were given as much time as needed (it is not expected to take more than 45 minutes). The participants were told not to put their names anywhere on the survey. Once the survey was complete or if the participant decided not to complete it, the participants were debriefed if needed and encouraged to ask questions. Any of the questions raised will be addressed and the participants were thanked and allowed to leave. This experiment is a quasi-experimental correlation design.

ResultsThere were forty-seven participants, thirty (63.8%) with at least one sister and seventeen (36.2%) without a sister. The participants’ ages ranged from eighteen and twenty-three, with the average age being nineteen and twenty (M=19.7, SD=1.2). The means and standard deviations for the variables for mother versus sister are shown in table one. The means and standard deviations of talk time with mother without outliers are shown in table two. A number of tests were run in hope to support our hypotheses; they include: an independent samples t-test, a paired samples t-test, and a Pearson Correlations test. It was hypothesized that if a sister was present there would be greater disclosure of personal information between sisters than with mother. A paired samples correlation test was run. Paired samples test data comparing disclosure to mother versus disclosure to sister is shown in table three. H1 was not supported. There was no significant difference in disclosure of personal information between sisters than with mother (t (29)= 0.44, n.s.). However there were some interesting findings that leaned toward supporting H1. More information about the first time one tried a cigarette was disclosed to sisters than mothers (t(29)= -2.24, p<.05). More information on one’s first kiss was disclosed to the sister rather than the mother. (t(29)= -2.87, p<.05). Hypothesis 2 was that if there was an absence of a sister there would be greater disclosure in mother-daughter relationships compared to those participants with a sister H2 was not supported. There was no significant difference between those with a sister and those without a sister in disclosure to mom (t (45)= .427, n.s.). Those with sisters talked less to mom (M= 25.60 times per month) than did those with out a sister (t (42)= -1.66, p=.11), “which approached significance.” We found some findings in our research that did not relate to either of our hypotheses but were quite interesting. Findings regarding mother-daughter relationship, such as those who trusted mom more, fought with her less (r= -.35, p<.05). Those who felt that their mom trusted them, talked with their mom more (r= -.32, p<.05). Those who communicated more with mom, were closer to her (r= -.61, p<.05). Those who felt more positively about their mother, were closer to her as well (r= -.59, P<.05). Interesting findings regarding sister relationships were as followed: those who felt that their sister trusted them, fought less with her (r= -.63, p<.05). Those who communicated more with their sister, fought less with her (r= -.381, p<.05). Those who communicated more with their sister, perceived themselves to be closer to her (r= .510, p< .01). Finally, the more positive feelings one had for their sister, the less one fought with her (r= -.641 p<.01). Some other interesting findings were the majority of the participants lived off campus and their main form of communication with either their mother or sister was the telephone.

It was hypothesized that if (a) sister(s) was present there would be greater disclosure of personal information between sisters than with the mother. Furthermore it was hypothesized that if there was an absence of a sister there would be greater disclosure in mother-daughter relationships compared to those participants with (a) sister(s). We did not support H1, however, there were some significant results that led to interesting finding. This gave us a glimmer of hope in proving it true. These interesting findings were that if a sister was present more personal information about some of the survey information were disclosed to the sister rather than the mother. These questions were: “How much did you tell your mother/sister about the first time you tried a cigarette?” and, “How much did you tell your mother/sister about your first kiss?”H2 was also not supported. There was no significant difference in disclosure in mother-daughter relationships if a sister was present. A study that we used to help interpret closeness between siblings was “Manifesting Closeness In the Interactions of Peers: A Look At Siblings and Friends.” Although the study was not exactly like ours it had some important facts that we could use, like the importance of closeness. “Of all the relationships one forms in a lifetime, it is often the close, personal ones by which a person measures the quality of life.”(Floyd & Parks, 1995) Although the purpose of their study was to investigate the value and contribution of day-to-day interactions to the overall closeness of relationships among friends and siblings, we can use this theory for our study. It is not only useful for measuring closeness between sister relationships, but also mother-daughter relationships.There were several possible reasons why this research did not work. First, we did not have a large enough number of participants resulting in “low power,” to show enough significance between disclosure to mother if a sister is present or not. Second, we could have also asked questions like, “Do you have a secret “life” here at college that your mother has no idea about, but your sister does?” Questions like this really narrow down the questions to a more personal level that would have helped us to get clearer results. A limitation to this study was that we relied to heavily on anecdotal findings rather than any past research or statistical evidence before we came up with our hypotheses. Also, we did not state the questions in the right way. We could have asked, “How much did the subject’s mom know about ‘X’?” We didn’t take into consideration that the subject’s mother could have found out about their private life through means other than themselves, like teachers, other parents, friends, etc. What we could have done to avoid this is state the questions asking, “How much did the subject tell their mother about ‘X’?”Another mistake on our part was that we also failed to run comparative information that actually had the participant compare information on sister to mother or viscera. Another limitation to this study is the lack of time we had to compete this study. If we were given say a whole year to work on this we could have obtained more participants.Finally, in future research I hope to do exactly what is stated earlier. I want to make the questions much more personal and make sure I have enough time to gather data on a significantly larger sample pool then was drawn for this particular study. I must also note that it could be possible that no matter what changes I make to this present study our hypotheses may just not be true. The practical implications of this study, I feel, were to help communication between mothers and daughters. If mothers know that their daughters aren’t telling them about the first time they smoked a cigarette or their first kiss then they can arrange questions geared at these topics in a way that promotes positive communication between the two of them. Another implication that has a positive aspect for society at large was the sibling’s aspect. As of today there are few studies done on sibling’s relationships. As stated in past research by (Deater, Dunn, & Lussier, 2002), siblings are important because they are socializing agents, support systems, and accept you for who you are in almost every circumstance. Another reason why sibling relationships needs to be studied in more detail is that sibling relationships are the longest lasting relationship that most of us will have.

Deater-Deckard, K., Dunn, J., & Lussier, G. (2002). Siblings relationships and social- emotional adjustment in different family contexts. Social Development, 11(4), 571-


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Submitted 5/10/2004 2:26:38 PM
Last Edited 5/10/2004 2:43:20 PM
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