Sibling rivalry is simply a consistent conflict between brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters. Some degree of sibling rivalry is normal: "Researchers studying sibling relationships during middle childhood (ages approximately 5-11) most often find that the majority of sibling relationships during this time can be described as ambivalent with a real love-hate feel," according to Having their children fighting is often a bigger worry for the parents than it is for the kids themselves.

These rivalries are often caused because children feel that they are competing with their siblings for parents' attention or for their identity (which sibling is better at a sport or has more talent in a field, etc.). They can also be a convenient outlet for other stresses in the kids' lives -- the sibling is just available to fight with when the child is already in a bad mood. Sometimes parents' interference, trying to make the children "play nice," yelling at the one who "started it," or protecting the younger child, actually makes things worse; advice is given in many places not to force the siblings to do things together so as not to breed resentment. On the other hand, making sure the kids get equal amounts of attention from their parents and one is not praised over the other is supposed to help keep the rivalry to a minimum. To quote Dr. Vera Rabie-Azoory, "If you stand back and try to appreciate what each one has separately -- and, it's not an easy thing to do. It's not to say that you love each one in their own special way. That's just words. You have to be really careful to be honestly, inside yourself, internally impartial, to love what this one does and what that one does for their own sake." recommends getting some kind of professional help only if there is risk of severe physical or emotional harm to one of the siblings, if the rivalry may be related to depression or some other problem which would be worth treating on its own, or if the fighting is causing marital problems in the family's adults.

Nonetheless, rivalry and the love/hate relationships can continue into adulthood and continue to influence family interaction, especially when siblings need to deal with issues about their aging parents' care, or are constantly comparing their own adult achievements to their siblings'.

(Note: the author of this writeup is not a parent and grew up as an only child -- my personal experience with sibling rivalry comes from my younger half-brother and half-sister.)


As far back as I can remember, my older sister has always been the smarter one. She has been the one that gets the good grades, knows all the right people and says the right things at the right times. I have been the other kid. I’m the one that gets into trouble for opening my big mouth a little too wide. My grades have been of a consistently poor quality and all my teachers hated me.

She has always outdone me, in every field except when we play playstation. I’ve kicked her ass in every game we’ve ever played. But that’s the thing. It was just a game. I can’t beat her in the real world, and I have tried to for years.

She went to law school, which would have been my choice had she not done it first. I walk in her shadow everyday because she excels at everything she tries and I am just me. I was not about to try and follow in those gargantuan footsteps, at least, I’m not ready to try yet.

For all of her great intellect and legal prowess, she doesn’t seem to be terribly happy. Not to long ago, I found her in her room, crying because she felt that getting less than 90% for one of her board exam papers was not good enough. She got 79 and a half percent. I am usually happy with a pass.

She drives herself so hard. She drives herself because she feels that nothing she does is ever good enough and in this, she becomes her own worst enemy. I feel sorry for her sometimes, when I see her working until 3 in the morning for a boss who really couldn’t give a shit whether she lives or dies.

Sibling Rivalry dictates that I should resent the fact that she is so much better at doing what she does than I am but I can’t help but feel cheated by her sadness. She never rubs in the fact that she flew through college without even coming close to dropping any courses, she graduated Magna cum Laude, and I have flunked more than just a few. She doesn’t view it as a failure on my part, just as what she terms a misallocation of resources, meaning that I should find something I’m good at and stick to it, regardless of what she has done in the past.

She encourages me to find solace in the fact that she hates what she is doing with her life and wants to change it, even if she is frighteningly good at it.

Sibling rivalry died the day she said that to me. Now I just love her.

"I was born first so I'll always be older."

Like most children with siblings I can't remember a time when my older brother and I weren't alternating between being at each other's throats and being best of companions. My mom has a picture of me and my brother from some christmas; he was about 6, I was 4. Both of us are dressed in matching Christmas sweatshirts a snowman embroidered on the front. We stand, smiling, arms around each others shoulders in the way that cartoons imitate life imitating cartoons. The arms around each other's shoulders weren't a show of brotherly love though, we were actually trying to pull each other into a headlock.

My brother was and is also subject to unexpected bouts of rage. He's one of those people who seems normal on the outside until they snap at one point. There's no buildup of aggression, there's just a threshold at which he switches from being tolerant to being crazed. My brother and I were obsessed with LEGOs when we were kids and still are somewhat. We would always have fights over who got control of the 'cool pieces': anything clear or shiny or different from the standard blocks and plates. He was never as respectful of property as I and he would frequently take apart my creations for specific parts, leaving them in pieces on the floor. After he did this one time, I snuck back down into the basement where the LEGOs were and I completely took apart all of his creations and hid the cool pieces. When he came down I ran upstairs, hearing his own footsteps right behind me. The doctors told my parents that my head had been hit against the floor hard enough to cause minor bruising to my brain.

"Well, if I killed you, you'd be dead and then I would be the oldest one alive."

As we got older, my brother and I drifted apart a lot. He was fascinated about science and would talk your ear off about particle accelerators and chemistry and oceanography given the chance. He became more eccentric, reveling in his weirdness. He also started to develop an arrogant streak and a major superiority complex.

While my brother was making the focus of his life more outward, I was making mine more inward. This was the same time I brushed with clinical depression. Puberty worked against me and his 2 ¾ years on me meant that we were no longer comparable in strength. To maintain a balance of power, I usually went for the knives in the kitchen whenever we fought. He liked holding power over my head and sadistically enjoyed yanking me around both physically and metaphorically. When I complained his favorite phrase was "Suck it up princess". Whenever I hear that phrase now I want to physically attack the speaker, regardless of who it is. Even more, I want to attack my brother for how he treated me.

"Yeah, but then I'd be dead longer."

We're closer now than we've ever been, mainly because we're further apart. He went off to college two years ago and not living with each other has done wonders to our relationship. We can pretend we have enough in common to have a civil conversation for a few hours and we still manage to hang out with our mutual friends sometimes.

We get on each other's nerves if we have to spend more than a few days together though. When he came home from college the first time I had to once again get used to hair clogging the shower drain, unflushed toilets, and the little beeps AIM makes as he talked with his girlfriend hours after midnight. But, in the end, you can't pick your family and he was born first so he'll always be older.

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