All you need to do to start recognizing adult sibling rivalry is to hear the criticisms many siblings have for one another when they talk about their brother or sister. And the complaints go on. Sometimes, we may feel so frustrated by our adult brothers and sisters that we want to avoid spending time with them or our parents. You may even work it out…like adults. There are family beliefs that people are fragile, and rivalries or favoritism is damaging to the siblings or their relationship. Families are often an area we hold sacrosanct.
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Destructive Family Dynamics
Dr. Bob Wright | October 22, 2019
By Judith Woods for MailOnline. Updated: BST, 3 July While competition between siblings may be mostly harmless during childhood, it can bring out the absolute worst in us if it develops into envy in later life, as Judith Woods reports. Sibling rivalry. What could be more natural, more healthy? The very phrase conjures up nostalgic images of ruddy-cheeked boys, straining to beat each other at tree climbing or Ludo. Or little girls, eyes shining with eagerness to outsmart one another in the classroom, guilelessly striving to please their parents at home. But spool forward 25 years and very often that competitiveness has crystalised into an emotion that is much less healthy and much more shameful — sibling envy. And no matter how much we love our brother or sister deep down, when sibling envy takes hold, it has a corrosive effect on our ability to express affection. Overt rivalry in childhood is upfront, dynamic and character-building, a necessary rite of passage that enables each child to find their niche within the family.
Coping with Adult Sibling Rivalry
Social scientists and popular culture give a lot of attention to parent-child and marital relationships, but it is sibling bonds that actually last the longest — longer than our connections with parents, spouses, and friends — while shaping our identity in powerful ways. Siblings are our history-keepers; they know the entire arc of our life story from childhood to adulthood. They bear witness to our achievements and milestones and share similar family experiences. These relationships are precious sources of love, understanding, and wisdom. Here's how they can go wrong , but also how to maintain and nurture them. Sister-sister bonds are likely to be the closest, followed by brother-sister relationships, with brother-brother pairs the most likely to be competitive, research shows.
Sibling rivalry isn't always outgrown in childhood, however; in some cases, it only intensifies as time passes. While people often think of sibling rivalry as a childhood phenomenon, adult sibling rivalry is a common phenomenon in which adult siblings struggle to get along, argue, or are even estranged from one another. One study found that more than a third of adults between 18 and 65 had apathetic or hostile relationships with their siblings. Research has shown that parenting plays a significant role in contributing to adult sibling rivalry. While parents may strive to remain unbiased when it comes to their kids, favoritism is actually very common. So if you feel that you're less favored by your parents and that pain is affecting you in adulthood, you're not alone. Sibling relationships are complex and influenced by a variety of factors including genetics, life events, gender, parental relationships, and experiences outside of the family. Parental favoritism is often cited as a source of adult sibling rivalry. Research shows that parents are more ambivalent toward children who are not married, less educated, and share fewer of their values.