Spotlight on the Common Causes of Sibling Conflict

Siblings - or individuals who share a parent - often play a significant role in one another's lives. Whether a sister or a brother, a sibling is the first person with which a child develops a relationship, learning important social skills. But because of the close-knit nature of their relationship from the start, conflict is extremely common.

As far as what causes sibling conflict, there are a few common contributing factors:

Family dynamics: Family composition often influences sibling issues, where conflict is more common in single-parent and blended family households.

Often, sibling rivalry results from feeling like you're not getting enough attention or love from your parents. If one child feels they lack a parent's attention or didn't grow up in the same household, they may feel neglected and act out.

Parental dynamics also play a role because they influence how siblings negotiate conflict. Siblings might demonstrate the same when parents model healthy negotiation or aggressive behavior.

Sibling demographics: The age gap between siblings can also be a major contributing factor to conflict. Siblings closer in age and of the same gender are more likely to compete and fight more than others. Sometimes siblings become hypercompetitive - whether the first-born child feels the need to outperform their younger sibling or vice versa.

Major life events: Circumstances including divorce or separation, trauma, loss, and chronic illness are all potential factors that influence sibling issues.

Although sibling conflict is common, it can sometimes have serious consequences. When siblings argue, the wounds can be deep and long-lasting. Hurt feelings often persist, leading to resentment.

Small amounts of aggression or teasing are normal between siblings, but in some cases, sibling conflict can escalate to bullying or physical violence.

Whether it's long-standing battles or sibling abuse, unresolved sibling issues can lead to emotional damage and psychological conditions like depression and posttraumatic stress.

It's important for siblings to get outside help before their mental health becomes impacted. Family therapy is a great resource for families and/or siblings to work together and/or individually to address their issues and troubling family dynamics.

Diane K. Schmidt Counseling Services | 8575 W. 110th Street, Suite 304 Overland Park, KS 66210 | Phone: 913.730.6778 | Email: diane@dkschmidtcounseling.com