For many siblings, the relationship they have with each other is often the longest in their lives. Sibling rivalries are a part of life: siblings bicker and tease each other. To some extent, these rivalries are useful. They are part of the development of young people and their social skills, such as listening and managing emotions. However, when sibling rivalries lead to verbal or physical abuse, they can become harmful. In order to maintain a good relationship, communication is key. Talking about it and seeking help is necessary in resolving conflicts that often go back to childhood.
Sibling rivalry among youth: What is it?
Sibling rivalry is a situation in which siblings, whether of the same blood or not, come into conflict on a recurring basis. At a young age, people's priorities are to seek their independence and individuality. Both of these goals for their personality development can lead to disruptions in family relationships.
The notion of competition is very present in sibling rivalries. Each looks for the same attention, advantages and success as their siblings. This can sometimes lead to teasing, arguments, but also more violent emotions such as anger and jealousy, yelling, verbal and physical abuse, etc.
Depending on the extent of the sibling rivalry, the family atmosphere can deteriorate and even become unmanageable. When the relationship leads to violence, it can cause unhappiness in one or more family members. The tension and stress reflect on everyone. If the conflicts are not resolved, these problems can continue into adulthood.
What are the causes of conflict between siblings?
There are causes that come from the environment in which young people grow up. Among the causes that will reinforce sibling rivalries are:
- Comparisons between siblings;
- Favoritism, which is often unconscious;
- Letting young people hurt each other physically or verbally without intervening.
There are also factors that can influence sibling relationships, such as:
- Age gaps: the closer the young people are in age, the more potential sources of conflict there may be. This is because attention needs and interests are very close, even similar. Young people can then compete with each other because they want the same thing.
- Birth order: oldest kids may be more in a conflictual relationship. This may be due to the loss of their only child status when a younger brother or sister arrives. While younger siblings have always experienced sharing, older siblings will experience the loss of the exclusivity they had with their parents.
- The influence of gender: Rivalries may be stronger between young people of the same gender. In our society, boys and girls are socialized differently. Also, a brother and sister may have different needs and interests. When young people are of the same sex, they can more easily enter into competition. Again, because they want the same thing.
- Character traits: just because you are from the same sibling does not mean you are the same. Thus, character differences can also be a source of conflict.
How do sibling rivalries affect young people?
It is important to note that sibling rivalries lead to conflict resolution, and help youth develop skills. In particular, it improves the ability to put oneself in the other person's shoes (empathy) and to take into account what they say (listening). Many other faculties are developed in this type of exchange such as assertion, compromise, negotiation, creativity to solve problems, expression of feelings, management of emotions, etc. This is why, when these rivalries are not a source of violence, it is better to let young people resolve their conflicts by themselves.
However, when sibling rivalries lead to physical or moral violence, the consequences can be detrimental to the development of young people. In fact, conflicts that escalate can upset the family balance. Relationships will be more strained. There will also be less room for affectionate language in exchanges.
For young people, self-esteem can also be damaged. Indeed, for a person's self-esteem to be strengthened, he or she needs to grow up in a peaceful environment where he or she feels supported. This means that self-esteem is built through:
- A sense of security: this is the basis of self-confidence, because only when you feel secure can you freely assert yourself, try new things, etc.
- A sense of belonging: feeling that you belong to several groups such as your family, your group of friends, etc., helps to develop your self-esteem.
- A sense of competence and independence: feeling capable of trying new things and taking on challenges also depends on the encouragement of those around you. And this support is just as important in times of success as in times of failure.
Self-esteem evolves and fluctuates throughout life. It can decrease after a failure and increase with the experiences and encounters that follow one another in life.
Sibling rivalries can have a significant impact on one's well-being. If you are not feeling well in your relationship with your siblings, talking about it is the first step. You can discuss it with your parents, a trusted family member (uncle, aunt, grandparents, etc.), and even your family doctor.
If sibling rivalries are leading to injuries, bleeding, verbal abuse, and kids are fighting more than they agree with each other, as a parent it is wise to seek help. Your family doctor can advise you and inform you of the resources that exist for your needs.
LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.