Sibling Relationships during the Transition to Adulthood in Malawi

Jasmine Fledderjohann, Pennsylvania State University
Jenny Trinitapoli, Pennsylvania State University
Sara E. Yeatman, University of Colorado at Denver

Extended kin networks are an important social and economic resource in Africa. The literature focuses primarily on intergenerational ties; less is known about “lateral” ties, such as those between siblings. In a context of high adult mortality (i.e., fewer grandparents) and falling fertility (i.e., fewer children), sibling relationships may have heightened importance. We use new data from Tsogolo la Thanzi to examine sibling support during the transition to adulthood. We consider support in two domains: current vs. anticipated support and financial vs. caregiving. We examine patterns of sibling co-residence across stages of the life-course, assess the scope and magnitude of economic transfers among sibship sets, and consider perceptions of available support in the case of illness or death. Associations between number of siblings and outcomes pertaining to both domains suggest that siblings may serve as an economic buffer and may even represent a form of wealth.

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Presented in Session 46: Transition to Adulthood in Sub-Saharan Africa