Unhealthy Sibling Relationships and Rivalry

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Psychology)

Last updated date : October 05, 2022

Table of Contents Article title – DBT for anger
  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8

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The sibling relationship is unique and precious. We share a close bond with our siblings. They are mostly from the same generation as ours and they are often our first friends. In our growing up years, these relationships mostly remain intact and special. Siblings fight and makeup again and again. This is a part of growing up together. However, there are certain exceptions. Some sibling relationships become unhealthy over time. This article discusses unhealthy sibling relationships and rivalry.

Sibling bonds can be long-lasting. They share a lot of things. For instance, they share a house and a family. They share similar memories too. Growing up, they even share pieces of their personal lives with each other. Siblings are often the first friends people have. Therefore this bond is special and unique.

Warm sibling bonds also protect a person against loneliness and sad mood. Moreover, strong bonds help people in life challenges. This is because, in strong relations, people are there for each other during happy and sad times. They also affect each other directly and indirectly. That is to say that brothers and sisters are influenced by each other in many ways.

There are different kinds of bonds between siblings. Some rarely fight but hardly share any close bond. Whereas, many constantly bicker and yet are very close to each other. Elder children have different experiences than younger ones.

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Chapter 1:
Unhealthy Sibling Relationships

Many brothers and sisters fight and yet have a loving bond. However, some unhealthy sibling relationships can affect many aspects of an individual’s life. Sometimes, absent parents can also lead to fights among brothers and sisters. Additionally, parents who are abusive towards children can lead to unhealthy bonds.

When parents differentiate among their children, the child who receives less love can become jealous. This can lead to unhealthy relationships among brothers and sisters. Let us discuss the reasons for unhealthy sibling relationships in brief.

1. Favoritism

Favoritism can lead to unhealthy sibling relationships. Most parents have a favorite child. They may deny it but in many cases, it is evident. They give more importance to one child over the other. Parents will praise only the child that they love and may ignore the other. They may blame the child who is not their favorite for all the things that go wrong.

Many times, the favorite child of the family is praised for every little thing that they do. The other child however is often ignored or dismissed. This kind of treatment leads to sibling rivalry. The ignored child who lacks love and warmth feels jealous of the favored child.

The favorite child has the best of all. New dresses, new shoes, and new books. Many times parents don’t do this favoritism intentionally. However, if the ignored child internalizes this kind of treatment, they may have low confidence. They can also suffer from low self-esteem. They will be unhappy, and often jealous of their favorite child. Additionally, they can feel sad and lonely. They fear parental criticism.

The ignored child will carry the guilt that they did something wrong to deserve the treatment. This guilt can lead to a sense of helplessness. The favorite child can have a perception that they are special. This can lead to a feeling of superiority over the ignored child. This often creates rivalry among them.

2. Elder Child-Younger Child Dynamics

In some families, the oldest child has most of the responsibilities. The younger one is pampered. This creates a kind of dynamic where one child has to do everything properly. There can be no scope for mistakes. Whereas the other child is driven by desires and passion. The responsible one or the mature child often has to sacrifice their dreams. This is because the family expects a lot from them.

The mature child is often given all the important chores. Sometimes it can also overburden the mature child. The mature child feels that the relaxed child is of no use and therefore looks down upon them. The mature one may not even have a choice to say no. Therefore they can feel jealous of the relaxed child who is getting to live their lives. This can also create unhealthy sibling relationships.

3. Siblings Who Bully

In many relations, one child is a bully and the other is the victim. Often there are healthy fights and competitions amongst brothers and sisters. However, in some cases, the bullying can get extreme. Parents usually play the role of mediators and discipline the bully. Some parents are not so assertive and therefore will not interfere. These parents do not want to get bad in the eyes of their children. Therefore they do not stop the overpowering child.

In this kind of abuse, the victim or the silent one can have lifelong trauma. The bully sibling is the one who is not disciplined by the parents. Usually, they do not know where to draw a line between constructive conflicts and abusive fights. This can lead to unhealthy sibling relationships.

This kind of unhealthy relationship can lead to sibling rivalry. Moreover, it can lead to a lasting impact on the child who is a victim.

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Chapter 2:
Unhealthy Sibling Rivalry

Parental favoritism can lead to deep and long-lasting sibling rivalry. Sometimes this outgrows in childhood and many times it does not. Siblings can carry this into adulthood. There can be many reasons for fights among brothers and sisters. Some of them are:

  1. One of your siblings shares a close bond with either of your parents. This can make you feel jealous and lead to unhealthy sibling relationships.
  2. Your demands are not easily fulfilled as compared to your sibling’s demands. This can make you resent your siblings.
  3. Other factors such as your views don’t match with that of your siblings. There is jealousy due to some reasons.

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Chapter 3:
Coping with Unhealthy Sibling Relationships and Rivalry

Whatever may be the reason, an unhealthy sibling relationship can lead to hurt and resentment sometimes. There are many ways to get over it, here are some of them.

  1. If you feel that favoritism is the cause of unhealthy sibling relationships, you can talk it out with your parents. Additionally do not take it personally. Sometimes, parents may not even be aware of any preferential treatment. The best way to overcome this is to sit down and talk to your parents.
  2. Find support from other people in your family. We can find love and warmth in our friends.
  3. Talk to your siblings. You can let them know how you feel about the unhealthy sibling relationship and rivalries. You can also address the favoritism and how it makes you feel.

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Chapter 4:
Endnote

Unhealthy sibling relationships can have lasting effects on people. They can suffer from guilt or anger if the conflicts are not resolved. It is very important to resolve childhood rivalries. Favoritism or bullying can also lead to low self-esteem. To overcome this, you can visit Epsychonline. There are courses like courses on low self-esteem that can help you out. Many articles help you work through your feelings of anger and resentment. Do check them out.
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69 Lessons

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  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

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