Sibling Rivalry: The Never Ending Feuds

sibling rivalry

Ever wondered why we constantly fight with our siblings? As I look back at those years of childhood I cannot help but remember the feuds with my siblings which included my cousins of course and the hateful things we used to say to each other. At that moment it was like ‘D fight’ and with promises of ‘I am never going to see you again’, ‘I hate you’ blah blah blah it seemed as a never ending battle. Yeah! We all have our moments isn’t it? But what is astonishing is that we all laugh about it now. So what is about it then which makes us hate, fight and love our siblings?

Competition and rivalry among siblings is what I would like to say a common phenomenon. A child has for his support his parents and relies on them for their love, care and attention. Children as we know are very sensitive and by eighteen months they know their family rules. They are delicate by nature and in this situation the birth of a sibling changes quite a lot of things for them. Yes, there are instances where the older one feels happy about the arrival of his sibling but most of them feel anguish and pain at such an arrival. This is basically due to the fact that they feel threatened by their younger siblings. For them arrival of a new one means divided or lack of attention, love and care from their parents. As children we hated parting with our toys and considerably parting with our parents then seemed quite a big deal. This thus is the first step towards that jealousy and hatred which we call as ‘sibling rivalry’.

sibling rivalryThe term ‘sibling rivalry’ was first introduced by David Levy in 1941 according to whom “the aggressive response” of the older sibling to the new baby is “so typical that it is safe to say it is a common feature of family life”. Intense sibling rivalry can be particularly seen when children are close in age, are of the same gender or where one of the child is exceptionally gifted. Soon such rivalry turns into fights no to forget the pressure caused by such physical and emotional changes during the teenage years. I still remember the time when I used to feel neglected and unwanted by my parents because of my younger sister. There were times when I wanted to shout out loud but unfortunately, it was not in my nature to do that. So I just used to sit and sulk. On seeing me sulking, my mother used to come up to me and try to pacify me by saying that younger ones need extra care and attention and being an elder sister it is my responsibility to love and care for the younger ones just as they did when I was little. It went off my head of course but as the years passed by I started to realize that such jealousy and rivalry is common everywhere. I am sure every oldest one had to say something funny or bad about his/her siblings while they were growing up. Remember the times while at school we used to discuss the so-called sibling issues with our friends thus coming to the conclusion that ‘All siblings are the same and wish I were the youngest one’ only to get that extra love from our parents. But with time I have realized that we have to just let go of that jealousy and rivalry because there is nothing as the bond of sisterhood and brotherhood. As Sigmund Freud says the relationship of siblings is just an extension of Oedipus complex where brothers compete for their mother’s attention and sisters for their father’s. In fact, such a feud with our brothers and sisters only make us realize the love we have for them and over time that bond gets stronger and deeper as has been the case with me and I am pretty sure with many of you too. However, there are also some whose sibling rivalries continue to grow and flourish. I am sure everyone has their own reasons for the same but what needs to be remembered is that nothing in this world is unfixable. The only thing you need is an honest effort to bridge the gap and resolve those unspoken issues.

However, if you look from another angle sibling rivalry is good as it tests your patience and skills for it is to them a competition, an act to define who they are. Studies have shown that the oldest ones of the family in their effort to win their parents’ attention and love from their young siblings try to be obedient and work hard. But the fact cannot be ruled out that there are also some who grow violent and hostile. Take the story of Cain and Abel for instance. The book of Genesis tells the story of Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel where one brother’s jealousy and hatred becomes the cause of another’s death; Cain kills Abel because God accepted his offering instead of his. Even Shakespeare in “King Lear” talks of such sibling rivalries through the protagonist, King Lear’s three daughters. In such situations, the need of the hour is healthy communication and resolving the differences. Parents too have a significant role to play in this. Favoritism and comparison are found to be the common causes of sibling rivalries.

sto sibling rivalry

Everything has a plus and minus side. Being imperfect defines being human but what matters is which path we choose to trod upon. Life is too short to be spent brooding over issues of anger and hate. So why don’t give a shot at building bridges and resolve the differences. As Neil Armstrong said, “…One small for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”. Let then sibling rivalry be only a sweet corn soup with a dash of chilli flakes in it for life is to be enjoyed and build relations and maintain them.

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