Nicole Campione-Barr, assistant professor of psychological science at the University of Missouri, and colleagues studied 145 pairs of mostly European-American, middle-class siblings -- ages 12-15 -- for one year. The teens rated different topics of possible conflict, noting the frequency and intensity of the arguments.
The arguments were organized into two categories: violations of personal domain or conflicts over fairness and equality. The study then examined correlations among the arguments and teens' reports of depressed mood, anxiety and self-esteem after one year.
"Our results show that conflicts about violations of personal space and property were associated with greater anxiety and lower self-esteem one year later in life," Campione-Barr said in a statement. "Conflicts over issues of equality and fairness are correlated to greater depression one year later."
A calendar of chores and defined time limits for turns with a video game can help reduce conflicts over fairness. However, if a parent noted one child consistently got the short end of the stick, action should be taken to ensure one child wasn't being too subordinate.
The findings were published in the journal Child Development.