Saturday, November 3, 2007


Our first experience in relationships involves that of siblings. We learn about how to get along … or not get along … with others in the “laboratory” of the family. There has been a lot written about why some siblings get along well, while others have a high level of conflict. Some families are close while others are more distant and detached.

Much of the answer lies in the context of the family and the quality of the relationship with the parents. Birth order and gender also enter into the mix. Researchers are also learning that genetic makeup has a great deal of influence as well … the nature versus nurture controversy.

Although the research is not clear about what affect each of these factors has on sibling relationships, there are some things that emerge. The emotional climate of the marital relationship does affect the quality of the siblings relationships. When there is a high level of marital conflict, there is often more sibling conflict. Children learn respect for each other as they witness the respect that they see their parents show each other. Children learn how to solve problems with each other as they witness their parents ability to solve problems.

Controlling and coercive parenting can also engender poor relationships between children as can very different treatment of the children by the parents.

Sibling rivalry is, of course, natural and many brothers and sisters from very different families grow up to be close and connected. Many grow up to learn how to be in healthy partnerships with friends and spouses.

What are your experiences in this area?

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