Sibling Relationships

Society places a great deal of emphasis on the relationship between parent and child but for some reason there is a paucity of information on the relationship between brothers and sisters. Strange, because sibling relationships generate just as many emotions: pain, frustration, rage, joy, and pleasure.

Longest Relationships

Also, our relationships with our siblings tend to be the longest-running relationships we will ever sustain. That’s because it is usual for siblings to outlive their parents, and sibling relationships begin long before friendships and marital relationships.

While some research has been done in an effort to characterize the nature of sibling behaviors and to codify these observations, the subject remains somewhat of a mystery. Not much research has been done on this special relationship. Maybe this is due to the fact that sibling relationships are among the most complex and confusing of all.

For one thing, sibling relationships take on a different character according to the birth placement of the children within the family. Then there are other factors to consider such as gender, spacing, and size of family. Researchers tend to be put off by the magnitude of what such a study would entail.

Natural Friends?

Parents would like to believe that their children are logical even natural friends. They expect their kids to always be loving and supportive toward one another. But the few studies that have looked at sibling relationships show this natural affinity between siblings to be more of a fantasy than a fact.

The earliest studies on siblings were predicated on the theme of sibling rivalry. These studies found that children compete for the attention of their parents as well as for top status within the unit of the family. This observed phenomenon still holds true today, with family psychologists reporting that among their clients, one of the main concerns is siblings who squabble and bicker on a constant basis.

The sibling rivalry theory began in 1949 with Sigmund Freud who found that such rivalry was a key factor in the future development of the different personalities of the siblings. A decade later, Alfred Adler theorized that it was the eldest child’s displacement by the birth of his sibling that acted as a trigger for concurrent and all future rivalry between the siblings. Today’s research suggests that sibling rivalry is caused by a combination of control issues, conflict, and caring. Recent studies have found that the siblings who display the most outward signs of rivalry are also those who are the most affectionate, cooperative, supportive, and willing to share with each other.

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