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Why Siblings Are Important Agents of Cognitive Development: A Comparison of Siblings and Peers

Margarita Azmitia and Joanne Hesser
Child Development
Vol. 64, No. 2 (Apr., 1993), pp. 430-444
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131260
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131260
Page Count: 15
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Abstract

This study explored older siblings' and peers' influence on young children's cognitive development. Although we anticipated many similarities in siblings' and peers' influence, our principal goal was to test the hypothesis that siblings are unique agents of cognitive development. Young children, their older siblings, and an older, familiar peer first participated in an unstructured building session where each built their own construction. Then, one of the older children taught the younger child how to copy a model windmill. Finally, the younger child was given an individual posttest in which he or she copied the windmill. Although there were many similarities in older siblings' and peers' guidance, the results highlighted the uniqueness of the sibling relationship. In the unstructured building session, young children were more likely to observe, imitate, and consult their older siblings than their older peers, and older siblings were more likely than older peers to provide them with guidance spontaneously. In the teaching session, older siblings provided more explanations and positive feedback and gave learners more control of the task than older peers. However, older siblings' behavior was not independent from the learners', as young children often prompted the siblings' explanations and pressured them into giving them more control of the task. These differences in teaching and learning strategies affected young children's task mastery: Children taught by siblings obtained higher posttest scores than children taught by peers. The discussion interprets these findings within the context of shared and unique functions of siblings and peers in cognitive development and highlights the role of the learner in promoting his or her own development.

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