When Roseanne was little, she noticed that there were many conflicts between her and her twin brothers, almost 3 years younger.
“They were a couple, a team, so it was always two against one,” says Roseanne, who is 46 years old, a mother and lives in New Jersey, USA.
According to her, some of that conflict lingers even now and it can occasionally seem like nothing has changed since childhood.
“We were very different. It just seemed like we were in different worlds and I think that’s part of the problem with my two. [hijos] now”.
Roseanne has a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter who have not gotten along since they were in kindergarten.
“The dispute is exhausting”, describes. “For a long time, we’ve avoided doing things together as a family because we just don’t want to listen to them. We can’t sit at the table for 10 minutes. [sin que se agredan]. Each is constantly aware of the other, making comments and pressuring him. “
The brothers fight. And as almost anyone with a brother knows, some kind of rivalry is common.
“Children have much less capacity than adults to reflect on what bothers them or to control their impulses. So, as we all know, they fight a lot,” says Dr. Raymond Raad, co-founder of RIVIA Mind, a mental health center in New York City.
In many families, sibling fights are educational. They help children learn to handle conflict and allow them to better interact with others.
For some, rivalry lessens in adulthood and becomes something to laugh about at family parties.
But for others, it remains.
A survey of 2,000 adults in the UK, as part of a promotion for the TV show Succession (which shows a constant rivalry between siblings), showed that more than half of those consulted still feel that they are competing with their siblings.
51% of these adults say they have a competitive relationship with their siblings that lasts over time. And that competition is for pretty much everything from home ownership to who is hosting family gatherings.
Some experts agree that these conflicts drag on.
Sibling rivalry seems unsurprising in childhood. But many, like Roseanne, still experience conflict, even after all the siblings moved out of the home they shared.
Why does this competition continue? Can we ever get over it?
Comparison and conflict
“As humans, we are comparison-oriented,” explains Shawn D. Whitehead, professor of human development and family studies at Utah State University.
“Siblings provide a natural point of comparison. They are in your home, growing up with you, they are generally of a similar age. They are in the same environment and in the same house, so they provide us with a good comparative measure, “he describes.
For example, it is easy for siblings to compare their academic or athletic success, or to dispute who is the “favorite” child, since they often have similar experiences (such as attending the same schools). AND the closer is it so The ages of the children, the more intense the rivalry can be.
This natural inclination to compare ourselves to other people can be a huge driver of competition between siblings, especially since siblings tend to be the people we spend the most time with during childhood and subsequently the ones we get to know the most, says Raad.
As human beings, we are comparison oriented “
It may seem “natural” for siblings in the same backgrounds with similar hobbies to clash. However, siblings who do not compete in the same activities also find ways to compete.
Whitehead says that some siblings try to differentiate themselves in an effort to reduce competition, especially if they are similar in age to their siblings. “That, in theory, would reduce the rivalry,” says Whitehead. “But the research shows mixed results.”
That is consistent with Roseanne’s experience, both with her own siblings and with her children. She says that being different is an important factor inl conflict.
Roseanne’s daughter is athletically talented, while her son is academically gifted. The woman says that since her daughter has to work much harder to get good grades, their differences have become a constant point of contention between the siblings.
“Many teachers and even some family members always comment on how smart my son is,” says Roseanne. “I know this is a pressure point for my daughter.”
Too it is common for competition to intensify in adolescence, says Raad, since “parents or school or sports settings create the expectation that everything is a competition.”
But even when siblings develop independent identities later in life, differences can continue to breed competition and conflict, especially with brothers and sisters who grew up in the same home, but ended up being very different from each other.
Even if their paths diverge, Raad says, “that doesn’t mean they won’t fight over things later in life.”
The equity factor
Another important factor in sibling rivalry is fairness, an idea that Whitehead says is very important to children.
“Parents are more likely to grant privileges to younger children than to older children,” he adds.
“As a parent, when you say to a 12-year-old, ‘You can stay up until 10,’ the other 10-year-old probably will too, because [los padres] they don’t want to fight. “
When younger children get permission before an older sibling, “that can make the older one feel like things aren’t fair. That creates conflict,” adds Whitehead.
And it turns out that siblings do not necessarily “outgrow” that desire for justice And that’s still one of the factors that can carry sibling rivalry into adulthood, says Raad.
“Among people who have conflicts, there seems to be an implicit thought that we come from the same place, from the same family, so it is only fair that we are similar, peers,” he says.
“Problems arise when one of the brothers feels that something is unfair in his life. There is a perception that one of them is prettier, smarter, more successful, and gives the other the feeling that genetics have been distributed unevenly, “he details.
The relationship between siblings is unique and multifaceted “
In adulthood, the question of sibling equity applies to things like career success, how happy people are in their marriages, etc., Raad adds.
“Unlike friends, where you can say, ‘oh, we are so different, we come from so different places,’ there is the idea that since siblings have the same origin, they should be in the same place,” he analyzes.
A gentle motivation
However, some adult sibling rivalry isn’t necessarily all bad.
More than a quarter of OnePoll respondents say they compete with their brothers and sisters for their career goals and for 15%, rivalry has motivated them in their careers.
For almost two in 10 adults there is a strong belief that sibling rivalry has led them to achieve more in their lives. So a certain rivalry can be healthy and just natural.
But it is not a given that all sibling groups compete for the rest of their lives. For many, the struggle fades as they become adults.
Experts agree that there is no reason why sibling rivalry disappears in some families and persists in others.
“The best predictor of your adult relationship is childhood, but there is also room for change,” Whitehead believes.
The intensity of a rivalry can fade with time and distance, so siblings who end up living far apart geographically or who don’t see each other as often can naturally clash less, he says.
The number of changes a family undergoes can also affect rivalries, he adds.
“We see changes around big events like when someone gets married, has a child, loses a father. All of them can help reorient relationships,” he enumerates.
Problems arise when one of the brothers feels that something is unfair in their lives “
When groups of siblings are protagonists, those great moments can bring them together and help break down barriers.
But ultimately, Whitehead says, the determining factor by which families overcome rivalry is personality.
“The relationship between siblings is unique and multifaceted”, he describes “and there are often as many differences within families as there are between them.”
However, experts suggest that parents can help young children reduce natural rivalry and protect them from more serious confrontations in the future.
“Parents should model social and problem-solving skills”, says Raad.
“You can have a conflict at home, that’s healthy, but being able to model how to deal with that conflict without escalating it will help your children in the future,” he says.
Encouraging siblings to form close relationships in adulthood, even if it means an occasional argument, can make a significant difference.
“Those relationships really last a lifetime,” says Whitehead. And when we become older adults “Our siblings become even more important to us. When our parents leave, they are the last connection we have with our family of origin.”
“There was a lot of tension between me and my siblings in our home growing up,” recalls Roseanne. “But now, we’re together, texting and chatting about my mom, that kind of thing, and I’ve reached out to at least one of them, even though it took me a long time.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.