The Consequences of Sibling Rivalry

by Jenny White

    It is a joyful moment for parents when they see their kids playing together and relating well. However, this is rarely the case because conflicts between siblings are very common. Siblings compete for their parents’ love and attention, each trying to receive the largest share. Sibling rivalry can continue throughout childhood, affecting your kids' social, emotional and psychological development. Parents should keep sibling rivalry at a minimum to create an environment that is conducive to healthy emotional development.

    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. Care and provide for all your children equally. To feel loved fully, each of them needs individualized special time and attention.

    Some parents dismiss sibling conflicts as a stage of child development. According to a 2006 article by Katy Butler, who writes for "The New York Times Magazine," parents can ignore acts of sibling violence because they look mild, casual and intimate. Butler notes that researchers rarely study sibling violence and many psychotherapists consider it a normal part of growing up. For instance, when one child hits the other with a football, you could think they are playing, while, in fact, they are fighting. If unattended, such conflicts can get out of hand and erupt into a warfare, with kids exchanging kicks and blows. This can lead to injuries or even death in extreme instances. Monitor how your kids relate with one another and encourage them to live harmoniously. Educate them about the dangers of sibling rivalry, to minimize violent behavior.

    Your children's ability to make new friends can be affected by the nasty relationships they have with their siblings. The Utah State University identifies sibling rivalry as an uncivilized way of expressing one's self, indicating a lack of proper social skills. Without good social skills, your kids might feel isolated because their friends think they are bullies. However, a 2011 article at Psychcentral.com suggests that mild sibling rivalry can enhance social development because it increases family interactions, though sibling rivalry can quickly change from mild to severe. Fostering a culture of love and unity within your children promotes social development.

    When children are constantly fighting with their siblings, parents are bound to feel the stress. For parents who have more than two kids, it can be very challenging to attend to their needs fairly. The Encyclopedia for Children's Health asserts that parents are often concerned that they don't favor one child to another and are fair to all their children. Besides, most parents have to go to work, limiting the amount of time they have to discipline their children. Teaching your kids the importance of friendship helps them grow into responsible teens. This makes it easier for you to manage their behavior. Praise cooperative behavior and let them know being aggressive warrants punishment.

    About the Author

    Based in Orlando City, Jennifer White has been writing professionally on parenting topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “Diverse” magazine, “Tampa Pay Parenting” magazine and “Colorado Parent” magazine. White holds a Masters in educational psychology from Florida State University.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images