Sibling relationships in sport and physical activity: A systematic review


Sibling relationships in the physical domain potentially tie to the quality of youth sport and physical activity experiences, yet research in this area is scant and lacks structure. In an effort to gauge current knowledge on this topic and provide a guide for future empirical endeavors, we conducted a systematic review of research on siblings in sport and physical activity. To be included in the review, studies were required to employ quantitative or qualitative designs, examine the relationship between siblings and physical activity behaviors, be published as full papers in peer-reviewed journals, and be published in English. We included studies that did not have a primary sibling focus, yet included sibling variables. For example, we included studies that were more broadly constructed to address familial correlates of physical activity (e.g., family size, SES, number of siblings). We conducted a comprehensive literature search of CINAHL, The Cochrane Library, PsychINFO, PubMed, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science in May of 2014. Following the article retrieval process, we systematically evaluated the collected studies for inclusion. At the conclusion of the filtering process, a final sample of 55 studies spanning 44 years (1970 – 2014) was obtained. Collectively the studies show siblings to be associated with multiple outcomes in the physical domain including: physical activity levels, sport socialization, sibling-based performance comparisons, and engagement in sex-typed activities. This review suggests more work is needed with a primary focus on siblings. Additionally, knowledge gaps are evident pertaining to sibling relational dynamics and maladaptive sibling interactions, among other topics. Overall, the findings provide an outline of sibling-based subject areas, identify topics needing further attention, and showcase methods with potential to advance the study of sibling relationships in the physical domain.

Acknowledgments: This work was supported by The Summer Research Fellowship provided by The College of Education and Graduate School at Michigan State University.