Sibling Rivalry- How Responsible Are Parents?

Posted on March 10, 2011 in Society


By Swati Parvatham:

Recently, I read somewhere, siblings, irrespective of brother or sister, are the best friends that a child can have. But in many occasions, these same siblings become a child’s eye sore. Ever wondered why such a situation arises where a prospective best friend is converted into a rival?

Sibling rivalry, as we all know, is a psychological and sometimes physical rivalry between siblings i.e. own brothers or sisters. This enmity generally begins with a vague and insignificant feeling of jealousy but if not identified and treated at the very inception, there is a possibility of much serious a situation where the siblings may end up hurting each other as well.

Parents, who are mostly the link between their children, have a major role to play in building the relationship between them as well. This relationship building has to be planned by the parents ever since they start planning their issues.

In current times, where both parents are working, the difference that couples maintain between their issues is quite a lot. As a result, the first child, in most cases, gets into the habit of grabbing the entire pampering and attention of the entire family, and by the time the news of the arrival of a little brother or sisters reaches them, it becomes very difficult for the first child to accept the fact that the attention they used to enjoy all by themselves would be shared by some newcomer as well. Thus, the feeling of competition begins in the mind of the child even before the sibling is born. This is where the parents have to assure the child that the new member is not a rival but just a new friend. But how many parents actually have the time to understand and make the child understand these delicate matters.

Moreover, in many a case even after the second child is born, the parents find it difficult to get accustomed to the idea of dividing their time equally among the two children. Paying equal attention to the younger child becomes a difficult habit to set in when the parents are used to giving their time fully to the elder child. Since, in most cases, the younger siblings end up learning most of the work and habits by observing their elder sibling, the effort and time that the parent has to put into this child is much less. Sometimes this gives the parents an impression that their younger child is independent by nature and does not require as much attention as their elder one. But this can give rise to serious bouts of depression in the minds of this child, who, in his/her ignorance starts to believe that he is less loved by the parents.

Sibling rivalry, as mentioned earlier, begins with very mild symptoms like frequent fights between siblings but the inherent rise of bitterness between the siblings can give birth to severe problems like depression in one of the children, feeling of being uncared for, various kinds of psychological complexes, addiction to various intoxicants and even suicidal attempts in some cases.

According to Kyla Boyse from the University of Michigan, each child in a family competes to define who they are as individuals and want to show that they are separate from their siblings. Children may feel they are getting unequal amounts of their parents’ attention, discipline, and responsiveness. Sigmund Freud saw the sibling relationship as an extension of the Oedipus complex, where brothers were in competition for their mother’s attention and sisters for their father’s. (source)

Therefore, parents not only bear the responsibility to give birth to a new life but also bear the even more significant task of creating cordial relations between their children, so as to ensure that the ‘Family’ becomes a cosy and peaceful institution.

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