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Siblings: Connected forever! Always at odds?

The longest relationship in life is with your siblings. And yet some siblings couldn't be more different. Which can often lead to conflict. Sibling disputes are part of family life. Not every conflict is bad per se. Conflicts offer a lot of development potential, especially for siblings.

But sometimes they can become so intense that a solution seems difficult without professional support.


In this blog I describe the nature of conflicts between siblings & what impact these can have on their personality development.


The nature of conflict between siblings

Sibling conflicts can take different forms, from verbal arguments to rivalry and jealousy to physical conflicts.


The nature of conflicts between siblings can be varied and depends on various factors.


1. Age and stage of development

Siblings of different ages often have different needs and abilities, which can lead to conflict. Younger children may be jealous of the attention their older siblings get, while older siblings may become frustrated when younger siblings touch their personal belongings.

2. Personality differences

Siblings often have different personalities and interests, which can cause friction. Differing temperaments, preferences and opinions can lead to conflict as siblings try to assert their own needs and desires.

3. Resources and attention

Siblings often share resources such as toys, space, and parental attention. Conflict can arise when siblings compete for limited resources or feel that their needs are not being adequately addressed.

4. Power dynamics

Sibling relationships often involve dynamics of power and hierarchy. Older siblings may try to exert authority or control their younger siblings, while younger siblings may rebel or fight for equality.

5. Sibling rivalry

Siblings can often find themselves competing for their parents' attention, recognition and affection. This can lead to rivalry and conflict as siblings try to outdo each other or assert themselves over their parents.



Possible effects on the personality development of siblings


1. Develop conflict resolution skills

Sibling conflicts can give children the opportunity to recognize, understand and find ways to resolve conflicts. This promotes their ability to deal with conflict and find compromise, which are important social skills.

2. Development of assertiveness

Sibling conflicts often require children to advocate for their own needs and interests. Through these conflicts, children learn to assert themselves, express their opinions and stand up for themselves.

3. Develop empathy

Sibling conflicts can also help develop empathy. Children learn to understand other people's perspectives, to compromise and to empathize with the feelings and needs of others.

4. Development of social skills

Sibling conflicts provide children with the opportunity to develop social skills such as communication, collaboration and teamwork. By dealing with conflict, they learn to express themselves effectively, listen and find compromises.


Conflicts between siblings are therefore not bad per se.

However, it is important to note that sibling conflict can also have negative effects.

Excessive or unresolved conflict can cause emotional distress, anxiety, or tension between siblings. If you continue to escalate, you will lead to recurring conflicts even into adulthood, and can divide families, lead to lifelong estrangement or, in the worst case, to a complete break in contact. It is therefore extremely important that parents create a supportive and respectful environment in which sibling conflicts can be appropriately addressed and resolved.


Find out more about sibling conflicts:

What role, attitude & responsibility parents should take on and how mediation & conflict coaching can support parents as well as siblings in resolving conflicts & strengthening relationships - in my next BLOG!


Literature references:

Hartmut Kasten, "Siblings. Role models, rivals, confidants". Reinhardt

The developmental psychologist and educator examines the topic in all its diversity and the changes from early childhood to old age. The author explains important findings from sibling research, such as place in the sibling order, gender and age gap as important factors in the development of social skills and intelligence.

Danielle Graf & Kathrin Seide, "The most desired child of all time drives me crazy - The sibling book". Beltz

The authors deal intensively with the relationships between siblings. They explain the plight of the firstborn and deal with different reasons why siblings argue with each other.

Nicola Schmidt, "Siblings as a team. Ideas for a strong family". Kösel

The author explains why conflicts can arise in the different development phases of children. It focuses on what parents can do to help children build strong and loving relationships with one another.

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