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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sisters : exploring a fundamental female bond Knodel, Rita Irene


This study explores the nature and significance of supportive and satisfying relationships between adult sisters and how these ties are facilitated. The importance of this fundamental female bond has been implied by a number of investigators in the areas of women's studies (Bernard, 1976; Caplan, 1981; Miller, 1976; Smith-Rosenberg, 1975), and in the sibling interaction research (Bank & Kahn, 1982; Cicirelli, 1982; Lamb & Sutton-Smith, 1982). The specific topic of the sister relationship however, has not yet been researched. An abbreviated Social Support Questionnaire - SSQ (Sarason, Levine, Basham & Sarason, 1983) was used as an objective measure to draw a sample of women who had supportive sister relationships. Twenty-five female university students ranging in age from 17-35 were randomly chosen from the sample of women whose questionnaire responses indicated supportive and satisfying sister bonds. The women rated their sister relationship and a female friendship on the Friendship Behavior Inventory - FBI - (La Gaipa, 1977). Respondents were then interviewed using the The Critical Incident Technique (Flanagan, 1954). This qualitative interview procedure was used to elicit and analyze the critical incidents which were perceived as facilitating supportive sister relationships. The SSQ results indicated that 82% of the women with sisters, surveyed, reported close relationships with their sisters, and indicated that these were a major source of support. The ratings of sisters and friends on the FBI showed that sisters were rated significantly higher on measures of self-disclosure, help and support, authenticity, empathic understanding and positive regard. There were no significant differences in the areas of similarity and strength of character. The facilitating factors elicited by the Critical Incident Technique were categorized in 3 major areas: 1. External Influences - The early sibling relationship is shaped by environmental influences and factors outside the control of the sisters themselves. 2. Intra-personal and Inter-personal Characteristics The affective nature and compatibility within the relationship itself are important in strengthening and maintaining a positive bond. 3. Specific Life Events - Strengthening in the sister relationship can be triggered by specific life events both expected or developmental events and unexpected incidents. The implications of these findings for counselling, parenting and sistering are discussed.

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