Effects of Sibling Rivalry

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Previously on Teen Voice…

We found out that siblings feel compelled to compete for a number of reasons such as favoritism, jealousy, fun, and trophies. We also discovered an important fact that where every other ship (relationship) has an end, the family doesn’t.

Today we are moving on to the effects of sibling rivalry which can negative or positive. Like I said, this depends on the personalities involved and how willing they are to learn from any final outcome. Meaning that whether or not it becomes a problem depends on your reactions.

“It’s important to remember that sibling rivalry is a normal emotional state in children. And it can have both positive and negative effects, depending on the degree of the competition.”

Caroline Macrory, co-founder and therapist at Write As Rain 

Negative effects of sibling rivalry (which can be avoided)

  • Division

Sibling rivalry can also negatively affect a marriage. Siblings may often bring their parents into a dispute, and find that one parent is siding with one child, while the other parent is siding with the other child. By communicating with your spouse and making sure that you present a unified position, you can reduce some of the negative effects of sibling rivalry on your marriage.

One of the possible negative effects of sibling rivalry is a household that, overall, has a much higher level of tension than others. If children are constantly bickering with their siblings, the parents are bound to feel the stress. Arguments and fights among two siblings will greatly affect any other siblings as well, even if they are not directly involved in the sibling rivalry.

  • Self-Identity Crisis

Sibling rivalry affects how kids perceive themselves.

The University of Michigan notes that a rivalry begins after the birth of the second child. The older child feels sidelined because his newborn sibling has a much higher level of parental attention. He starts to feel unloved and thinks his presence is no longer valuable.

These feelings can quickly develop into jealousy, which is not good for his sense of self-identity and emotional growth. Parents should learn to care and provide for all their children equally. To feel loved fully, each of them needs individualized special time and attention.

  • Violence

If not watched, occasional hitting of each other can become something serious which can cause physical damage (death is a possibility) and mental damage.


Positive effects of sibling rivalry

  • Preparation for the future

“First of all, sibling rivalry provides a hands-on laboratory in which siblings can learn, practice, and better understand interpersonal relationships. Early family life is often something of a laboratory for later life. A place where children can begin to understand things like empathy, understanding, and communication.

It is a place where children can learn to deal with negative emotions, such as jealousy, in a safe environment. While the sibling rivalry itself does have some negative consequences, learning how to effectively handle it and to relate to one’s family is an important part of growing up. By encouraging communication and problem-solving skills when sibling rivalry does creep up, you can improve your children’s skills overall.”

The Labor of Love.com on “Effects of Sibling Rivalry”

“Studies support the idea that children can learn vital people skills through their early sibling interactions – they learn complex lessons about communication, the subtleties of language, social interaction and the regulation of emotions.”


Thoughts From Other Professionals

“Competing with a sibling can form the foundations of a range of essential skills, including building up confidence, learning to stand up for oneself, acknowledging differences and accepting defeat,” 

Caroline Macrory, co-founder and therapist at Write As Rain  


 “Although it may not feel like it, sibling rivalry can be constructive, preparing them for important relationships when they are older”.

Judy Dunn, professor of developmental psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry


“The more the children upset each other, the more they learn about regulating their emotions and how they can affect the emotions of others. The more they point-score, the more it can motivate them to achieve.”

Dr. Claire Hughes, author of Social Understanding and Social Lives

Secondly, sibling rivalry can, in some cases, lead to positive competition as well. It may be that siblings are competing against one another in a variety of areas. This is true whether it is sports, academics, or socially. Being competitive can often bring out a child’s strengths.  Mild competition in other areas can help children to improve.

Dr. Tina Kretschmer, co-author of Siblings – Friends or Foes? and a fellow at King’s College London, said parents should not try to stifle their children’s rivalry.

“It’s a natural part of sibling relationships and it has its good sides: it can motivate them to choose different niches in which to excel,” she said.

Remember: On the surface, you may just see bickering fights and tantrums over board games. But there’s also the fierce love and unbreakable ties of family.

The Sibling Rivalry Series:

Teen Voice


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