Ongoing Projects

Only Child to Older Sibling™

The Only Child 2 Older Sibling™ research program will eventually focus on family life education for parents expecting their second child. The arrival of a baby sibling can be a challenging time for both firstborn children and their parents, but it can also be a turning point in the family and an opportunity for growth and positive change. Prior research from our lab finds little evidence that only children experience maladjustment after the birth of their baby sibling, unlike many accounts of this time as a developmental crisis due to the loss of parents’ love and attention. This crisis narrative is outdated and leaves parents ill-prepared to manage the challenges and changes that will occur. OC2OS™ uses psychosocial education and research-based evidence to support parents on how best to manage the transition and prepare both themselves and the firstborn for the impending arrival of a new baby into the family. Parents will learn how to stress-proof their families, help their first child accept and love the new baby, strengthen their co-parental relationship with their partner, and to discipline effectively in response to children’s challenging behaviors.

Family Transitions Study (FTS): Family Transitions Following the Birth of a Sibling

The Family Transitions Study (FTS) was a longitudinal investigation of 241 families expecting their second child. The main goal of FTS was to examine changes in the firstborn child’s adjustment following the infant sibling’s birth and how parenting and family life changed. The study involved five assessment points starting in the last trimester of the mother’s pregnancy with the second baby and then again when the infant was 1, 4, 8, and 12 months of age. Families were visited in their homes throughout the course of the study where we conducted parent interviews, videotaped observations of parent, sibling, and marital interaction, and assessments of children’s social and emotional development.

Recent publications from this research program:

Volling, B. L., Gonzalez, R., Oh, W., Song, J-H., Yu, T., Rosenberg, L., Kuo, P. X. Thomason, E., Beyers-Carlson, E., Safyer, P., & Stevenson, M. M. (2017). Developmental trajectories of children’s adjustment across the transition to siblinghood: Pre-birth predictors and sibling outcomes at one year. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 82(3), Serial No. 326.

Volling, B. L., Oh, W., Gonzalez, R., Bader, L. R., & Tan, L. (2021). Changes in children’s attachment security to mother and father after the birth of a sibling: Risk and resilience in the family. Development and Psychopathology, 1-17.

Tan, L., Volling, B. L., Gonzalez, R., LaBounty, J., & Rosenberg, L. (2021). Growth in emotion understanding across early childhood: A cohort-sequential model of firstborn children across the transition to siblinghood. Child Development.1-16.

Family Transitions and Toddler Development (FTTD)

FTTD is a follow-up investigation of the FTS families when the second born children were 18, 24 and 36 months of age. The overall goal of this research was to examine the development of the toddler siblings (e.g., self-regulation, emotional understanding, moral development, behavior problems) from 18 to 36 months of age and then determine how different parenting practices and family experiences predicted these developmental outcomes.

Here are some of the more recent publications from this work:

Kolak, A. M., & Volling, B. L. (2022). Amenders and avoiders: An examination of guilt and shame for toddlers and their older siblings. Cognition and Emotion.

Olson, S. L., Ip, K., Beyers-Carlson, E., Gonzalez, R., & Volling, B. L. (2020).  Development of externalizing symptoms in toddlers: The critical role of older siblings. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(2), 165-174.

Van Berkel, S., Song, J-H.,Gonzalez, R., Olson, S. L. & Volling, B. L. (2020). Don’t touch: Developmental trajectories of toddler’s behavioral regulation related to older siblings’ behaviors and parental discipline. Social Development.

Recently Completed Projects

The Baby Sib Study

The Baby Sibling study was designed to identify a means for helping parents understand children’s reactions to the birth of their baby sibling. We did this by bringing pregnant moms and the firstborn child into our lab and then observing them together interacting with a simulated baby doll. We were particularly interested in whether we could tell how these children would react to their mothers interacting with their baby sibling at home 1 month after the baby was born by looking at how they had behaved in the lab when mothers were asked to interact with the baby doll (pretending it was a real baby) a month before the birth. We videotaped both lab and home sessions and coded these videos to see what children did. We recently completed this work and found several interesting findings: (1) children were far more positive (e.g., affectionate, joining mothers, asking questions about the doll/baby) when mothers interacted with either the doll or their baby sibling than negative (e.g., jealous, interfering, or angry); and (2) how children responded when mothers interacted with the baby sibling at home was different than how they responded to their mothers interacting with the baby doll in the lab.

This research was recently accepted for publication:

Volling, B. L., Bae, Y., Rosenberg, L., Beyers-Carlson, E. A., Tolman, R., & Swain, J. (in press). Firstborn children’s reactions to mother-doll interaction do not predict their jealousy of a newborn sibling: A longitudinal pilot study. Journal of Perinatal Education.