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The role of sibling aggression during childhood in decision-making during adulthood

Bedwell, Stacey A.; Harrison, Natalie; Fradley, Sara; Brooks, Matthew

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Stacey A. Bedwell

Sara Fradley

Matthew Brooks


Research shows sibling relationships can influence cognitive development, specifically in terms of high-order processes involved in social functioning. These high-order processes take place in the human prefrontal cortex. While prefrontal connectivity can be influenced by factors experienced during developmental phases, it remains unclear how experiences of aggression towards a sibling in childhood can contribute to high-order processes in adulthood, specifically decision-making. Through two studies, we sought to establish a relationship between sibling aggression and decision-making styles reported in adulthood, as well as real-time risky decision-making. Study 1 examined the relationship between childhood experiences of sibling aggression and high-order function, specifically decision-making. Self-reports from 142 adult participants revealed that using sibling aggression to maintain dominance (ESAS; Harrison, 2017) was linked to avoidant and spontaneous decision-making (GDMS; Scott & Bruce, 1995). The findings reported here indicate a possible role of sibling aggression in the development of avoidant and spontaneous decision-making styles. Study 2 investigated the relationship between childhood sibling aggression (ESAS; Harrison, 2017) and performance in risky decision-making tasks (IOWA gambling task; Bechara et al., 2000) among 75 adult participants. It revealed that experiences of sibling aggression did not predict risky decision-making. These findings indicate that the types of decisions made may be influenced by childhood sibling aggression, but not the level of risk involved in decisions made.


Bedwell, S. A., Harrison, N., Fradley, S., & Brooks, M. (2024). The role of sibling aggression during childhood in decision-making during adulthood. Current Psychology, 43(3), 2264-2276.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 27, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2023
Publication Date 2024-01
Journal Current Psychology
Print ISSN 1046-1310
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 3
Pages 2264-2276
Keywords Sibling aggression, Executive function, Cognitive development, Decision-making, Prefrontal cortex
Publisher URL


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