How relationship between siblings play a significant role in Child Development?

How relationship between siblings play a significant role in Child Development?

Siblings can be the most infuriating people on the planet or can be the most loyal and closest person you could have by your side, there's no in between. Siblings play an integral role in each other’s life ranging from being a support system for each other to being a worthy competition for each other. Sibling relationships, unlike the relationship they have with their parents, often combine feelings like rivalry, affection, hostility. They tend to have different personalities, attributes and behaviors which depend on various factors like their environment, birth order, age, relationship with other adult family members and upbringing. Having a sibling impacts a child’s life in shaping his/her life. A healthy relationship with the siblings helps the child with several aspects of his life which helps in fostering better relationships with others around him as well. A study tracked almost 300 men from the late 1930’s who shed some light on the importance of healthy sibling bonds. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, 93% men from the sample were thriving at the age of 65 because they had positive and close relationships with their siblings. Furthermore, the study also stated that poor relationships between siblings before the age of 20 could make them susceptible to depression in later years, suggesting that the longer we have functional and close relationships with our siblings, the more it can benefit and protect the person emotionally. There are many aspects to keep in mind when we talk about the relationship between siblings such as their environment that they are brought in, their birth order and age, family size, family’s ideologies and their interactions with other adult family members. There are also several ways how the parents or the caretaker of the children could promote a better and strong sibling relationship. 

Having a sibling can help a person in numerous ways, be it to compete or to provide a support system to each other. Sibling interaction contributes to what we learn about interpersonal behaviour as well as social interaction with others. Among the elementary school kids, it was found that children with no siblings were less liked by the classmates. It is presumed that, the reason why children with no siblings were either aggressive or more victimized by other aggressive kids was that, they lacked interpersonal learning experience. Children with siblings tend to have slight advantages over the kids who are single offspring. This could be because of several reasons such as children who grew up with brothers or sisters tend to be more empathetic to others. They learn to share things like toys, parent’s time, attention and affection, food, clothing etc. They learn to control their emotions as well. Young children manifest a full spectrum of emotions ranging from jealousy and anger to love and affection. The development of a child is also aided by the presence of a sibling in the family as they learn something from one another. Older siblings tend to take the role of help, which inculcates the concept of self esteem and social responsibility within a child. The younger children on the other hand, try to copy their brothers and sisters which lead them to try new things on their own accord. A study in 2005 by Milevsky stated that the support provided by the siblings had the ability to compensate for the lack of support from parents and friends.

We all have either witnessed or been a part of an experience where we could hear sentences like “Mom always prefers you” or “Mom Loves you more than me”. One of the most important aspects of sibling relationships is sibling rivalry which could be considered as both positive and a negative for a child. Competition for the sibling could help them to improve as well as be motivated to try new things which will eventually help them with their growth and development. The rivalry can start even before the birth of the second child. Judy Dunn, in one of her researches, revealed that children as young as one year old are very sensitive towards the way their parents and siblings treat them. It is a state where one or more than one sibling is completing or showing animosity. Siblings tend to spend more time with each other rather than their parents and have to compete over several things like attention, affection, food, toys etc. This behaviour could help them, as they learn to share and cooperate with others but if the rivalry goes unchecked by the parents or their caretakers, it could grow into something unpleasant. According to the research conducted, 33% of the siblings end up having strained relationships later in their lives because of an early sown conflict between them. For them to reconnect with their sibling is more like reliving their childhood all over again. The research by Judy Dunn, also reveals the fact that parental favoritism in one of the key factor why sibling sustain hostile relationships throughout their lives. The interaction and the experience of the child stays with them through their whole life to such an extent that adult children are not able to identify from where the resentment towards one another even started from. 

There are several factors which influence the relationships between the siblings. First and foremost, the birth order, a theory which was given by Alfred Adler wanting to understand how family matters, considering the order of when a child enters the family. The position of the child in the family could affect his/her life in positive and negative manners as well. In the study, it was found out that the first-borns rated their relationship with siblings as more positive and prioritized family more than the later borns. On the other hand, the youngest sibling described their relationships as worse when compared to the first and middle born children. It is known that the parents would value their first born rather than later born because the oldest child had the most reproductive value and highest chance due to infant mortality rates. There’s evidence that the first borns have higher IQ levels than their siblings. Reasoning behind this claim is that some of the researchers think it is due to the parental age at the time of birth but others believed that it was because of the resources and attention from parents for developmental stretch. Due to these and several other reasons, we can conclude that the resentment in younger or older siblings which results in rivalry between siblings in every aspect of life mainly for their parents’ acceptance, attention and respect. Apart from birth order, age, family size, family structure, Family’s environment and upbringing play a vital role in development of healthy relationships between siblings.

Parents play an active role in their children’s life and their decisions heavily impact their lives and relationships. There are some ways by which parents can facilitate in having a strong and close sibling relationship. First off, the children should be taught to respect each other and not make everything a competition between each other. They should be able to have healthy competition and should also be able to celebrate each other's accomplishments. The parents should also avoid favoritism, as it is the main reason why sibling rivalry starts in the first place. They should value and appreciate all the kids equally for their work and make sure that the children know that they are being acknowledged and appreciated for what they are. Encouraging activities that promote teamwork at a young age would be beneficial for them as well. Furthermore, encouraging communication between the siblings could also lead to an effective and strong relationship between the two. They should have disagreements and should know how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. They should now know how to compromise and come to common ground to have both the parties satisfied.  As the children get older, they should be encouraged to maintain cordial relationships with each other. 

As we all know how the entertainment industry has a strong influence on our choices, mindset, thought process and behaviour on a whole. There are some iconic movies that demonstrate strong sibling relationships like Frozen, Hansel and Gretel, Brave, Narnia, Thor and Incredibles. They are quite famous among the young crowd, which also inspires them to be more compassionate and build strong relationships. These movies depict relationships between siblings being friendly, close with a hint of rivalry among them. All in all, they all have delightful and inspirational relationships which we all admire.

About the Author

Fiza Abbas
Student.

I recently completed my honours degree in Social Sciences and Humanities from Ambedkar University Delhi. Here, an o

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