Research – Child and Family Development Laboratory

Ongoing Projects

Representations of Siblings in Young Children’s Literature

5/20/21 **COVID-19 UPDATE: The Children’s Literature Project has some remote research opportunities for students living in the state of Michigan during the spring and summer terms. Please contact Lauren Rosenberg ( for more details.

In this investigation we are studying how children’s books portray the arrival of a baby sibling and the content of these books. We are focusing specifically on the transition to siblinghood and how children and parents are portrayed in young children’s literature. Do they focus mostly on rivalry and jealousy? Or on children’s acceptance of the new baby?

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

FTS is 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 changes in family relationship functioning including marital relationships, parental well-being, family social supports, and work-family stress. Families had to meet several criteria for participation: (1) mothers had to be expecting their second child; (2) firstborn children had to be between the ages of 1 and 5 years of age; (3) the biological father of the infant had to be residing in the home; and (4) neither the infant nor the firstborn had developmental delays or significant health issues. The study involved five assessment periods starting in the last trimester of the mother’s pregnancy with the second born (Prenatal assessment) and then again when the infant was 1, 4, 8, and 12 months of age. Families were visited predominantly 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 understanding.

See the initial results of this study published in the SRCD Monograph Series for more information: 

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.

Family Transitions and Toddler Development (FTTD)

FTTD is a follow-up investigation of the FTS families when the second born children are 18, 24 and 36 months of age. The overall aims of this research are to examine longitudinal patterns of change in the toddler siblings behavioral and emotional regulation from 18 to 36 months of age and relate these trajectories to changes in the older sibling’s behavioral adjustment, parenting, and familial stressors and supports.

Questions Addressed:

  • Can we identify different trajectories of young children’s self-regulation and behavioral adjustment from 18 to 36 months?
  • Are these different patterns of toddler’s behavioral regulation related to the sibling relationship?
  • Are changes in behavioral adjustment for older and younger siblings related to coparental,  parental, and sibling relationship functioning over time?

Completed Projects

The Baby Sib Study

The Baby Sibling study is designed to identify early indicators of children’s reactions to mothers interacting with a simulated baby doll before the arrival of a baby sibling and whether these behaviors predict how children react to their mothers interacting with their baby sibling after the birth. Pregnant mothers bring their firstborn child to the UM Child and Family Development lab to interact with a life-size baby doll and are videotaped in these interactions to see how the firstborn child reacts to mother-doll interaction. One month after the baby is born, mothers and children are visited in their home  and videotaped during mother-infant interactions with the new baby. Our goal is to help future parents learn how to identify problem behaviors that might help children adjust better to the birth of a baby sibling and whether interactions with a simulated baby doll may be one means of doing so.

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