Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Alan Sillars

Commitee Members

Christina Yoshimura, Paul Silverman


divorce, RIT, siblings, turning points


University of Montana


Most previous research on children’s adjustment following the divorce of their parents has focused on the consequences of parents’ actions and communication choices. Relatively little is known about the impact that sibling relationships have on post-divorce adjustment. The current study was designed to explore the relationship between sibling social support (emotional, instrumental, and informational support) and adjustment. Data was collected from 34 participants using the Retrospective Interview Technique (RIT). Participants identified key turning points in their adjustment process and used those points as an interview guide to talk about support from and communication with their siblings. Numerical questionnaire data was also collected at three turning points. Findings revealed 12 categories of turning points, of which “Move,” “Change in family composition,” “Change in contact with non-residential parent,” “Intrapsychic change,” and “Change in parent relationship status” were the most frequently reported. Five trajectories of adjustment were also found, namely “Steady,” “Interrupted,” “Stagnating,” “Turbulent,” and “Declining.” From the interview data, examples of social support and communication topics were assessed. Social support was evident in the forms of emotional, instrumental, informational, and perceived support as were more implicit categories like “time together” and “common cause.” Conversation topics included parent relationships, the effect of the divorce on other family members, making sense of the divorce, and opinions. From the support and communication data, 7 sibling types were proposed. Siblings who gave equal support to each other fell into the categories of “Separates,” “Pals,” “Allies,” and “Opponents.” Relationships where one sibling offered more support than the other were categorized as “Parent,” “Protector,” and “Encourager.” Statistically, no relationship was found between sibling support and adjustment, although relationships between parent support and adjustment were found. Explanations and implications are proposed.



© Copyright 2009 Kimberly Ann Jacobs