Time-Out With SURPIN May edition- SIBLING RIVALRY - Dr. Raphael Ogbolu & Dr. Sulyman Dauda


What is Sibling Rivalry?

Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition, animosity and fighting between brothers and sisters. Sibling rivalry can also be described as the ongoing conflict between kids raised in the same family. It can happen between blood-related siblings, stepsiblings, and even adopted or foster siblings.

Sibling rivalry often continues throughout childhood and sometimes into adulthood. It can be very frustrating and stressful to parents. Rivalry in adolescents may be more serious than in childhood, because they are better equipped to physically, intellectually, and emotionally hurt and be intellectually and emotionally hurt by each other.

This topic is also important because we must remember that most children learn how to interact with their peers/ and friends by learning how to interact with their siblings and their parents first.

Parental favoritism: This is often most cited as one of the sources of sibling rivalry, It's also common for people to feel that a sibling is or 'has always been' favoured by a parent, even if this may not be recognized or acknowledged by the rest of the family.

Psychologically, sibling rivalry may serve a developmental purpose: It helps children figure out what is unique and special about them otherwise known as “differentiation” , But it becomes pathological when it's intense Children want to be seen as the most special by their parents, so they’re “always going to push for preferential treatment,” over their siblings. But they may also shape their interests and personalities around their siblings’ skills and desires.

For example, let’s say the older son is a soccer star. The younger child or children may then avoid soccer altogether, either because they are afraid they won’t be as good as their brother or because they fear they might be better and outshine their brother — and they don’t want to take that risk either.

Sibling rivalry may be particularly intense when children are very close in age and of the same gender and/or where one or both children are intellectually gifted.

Sibling rivalry can lead to toxic relationship, when a sibling believes he/she is never wrong.

He/she blames others and does not take responsibility for their own part.

They often have the mentality that nothing is their fault, and everyone else is wrong


Sibling rivalry might take many forms;

1. Verbal aggression

2. Physical fights

3. Name-calling

4. Tattling

5. Bickering

6. Being in constant competition for parental attention

7. Voicing feelings of envy.

Causes of sibling rivalry:

1. Poor communication and conflict resolution skills during childhood.

2. Parents pitting their children against each other and comparing them to each other.

3. Unhealthy competition between siblings.

4. Feelings of jealousy and bitterness.

5. Parental behaviours can sometimes exacerbate sibling rivalry, behaviours like

▪ Constant praising of one child and criticizing another.

▪ Pitting children against one another in competition

▪ Assigning specific family roles

▪ Paying more attention to one child’s needs and interests than others

Checkpoint : Parents are advised to take a while to look at the above, are we guilty of these now?


Parents should be observant because there are other forms of expressing Sibling rivalry aside violent behavior, parents may think it will only manifest as aggression and then it is missed.

There are many factors that contribute to sibling competition. While some remain obvious, others are less obvious. For instance, a child who witnesses his or her sibling receiving more praise or attention from their parents may grow to resent their brother or sister. The child who is less attended to may also begin to act out to get attention or even target their brother or sister out of resentment.

The birth of a new sibling can also breed sibling competition, depending on the circumstances and family dynamics. Fear that parents will devote all of their attention to the newest, youngest sibling is a common fear that many children have.

experiences or knowledge about what constitutes sibling rivalry

What happens when there’s a sibling with health challenges in the family requiring much support?

This may also lead to sibling rivalry because other children may believe that their sibling with health challenge is getting more attention from their parents, There are some developmental stages when sibling rivalry is worse, like when both kids are under 4.


Subconscious favouritism of the male child... Could constitute sibling rivalry.


Mental health impacts of sibling rivalry

➢ Loneliness (fear of missing out) especially when parents compare abilities.

➢ Low self-esteem – inferiority complex, feeling unloved – whiich can lead to depression and suicide.

➢ Vulnerability to outside exploitation – teenage pregnancy, crime, etc. This is because they seek favour elsewhere. This is particularly if the parent is really 'mean' to the unfavoured child.

➢ Jealousy and resentment. And if the unfavoured child is older and stronger they can abuse or bully the favone.


Can the favoured child in a family also have mental health challenges as a result of being favoured?

On the part of the favoured child, all is not rosy too. They can also have negative mental health impacts such as

• Superiority complex – never wrong, other sibling always at fault. They may grow up with this attitude and it will affect future relationships.

• Unrealistic expectations – which if not met, will feel like a disappointment, and could lead to depression, drug abuse and suicide


The Impact on the family:

✓ The family as a whole. They too can be affected;

✓ Unhealthy competition – resulting in putting other sibling down, even wishing evil, Fights and quarrels, impaired social skills.

✓ Family discord – the family becomes divided with grouping/taking sides. In adulthood this can lead to estrangement.

✓ Future relationship problems.

✓ The negative impact can be worse after parents pass on; so it is important to help your children foster good relationships.

✓ Personality disorders can arise


Prevention of Siblings rivalry:

➢ Avoid favouritism

➢ Avoid comparing abilities

➢ Recognise the signs

➢ Stop propagating it as an adult.


How do you deal with it:

• Build your own support network

• Try not to take it too personally

• Your relationship with your parents is yours; don’t compare

• Ensure you don’t do the same to your own children


Checkpoint: We have adult siblings who hardly talk to each other due to sibling rivalry although they will say they are not quarrelling; Sibling rivalry goes undetected so often.


Studies have shown that parents may be less favourable to less educated, unmarried children who share less in common with them, such as their values.

Younger siblings with negative relationship with older siblings have been found to more likely engage in sexually risky behaviours.


How do young parents handle sibling rivalry in toodlers?

• Communication is vital.

• Good conflict resolution skills

• Try to be fair to all children

It requires the parents first recognizing it and then ensuring they plan activities that involve the siblings and the parents. Also they should identify and highlight each child's strengths so that they create a sense of uniqueness in them, especially when it's not obviously aggressive rivalry.

Teaching and modeling fair play is very helpful at this stage; this is where play therapy can be very valuable


Finally, if you or anyone you know is affected by sibling rivalry, speak to a trained mental health professional (psychiatrist, clinical psychologist or medical social worker trained as counsellor), You can contact SURPIN as well.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All