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Sibling Rivalry, Its Causes and Effects

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Sibling Rivalry: cause and effect essay

Many people have an idea of what the “perfect” family is. Maybe this ideal includes parents that love their children unconditionally or children who enjoy and tolerate each other. In all reality, the flawless family does not really exist at all. Most families at least have some problems that arise on occasion or maybe they are just entirely dysfunctional. A common problem that arises in households is sibling rivalry, which is the topic of this essay. Sibling rivalry is frequently known as a jealousy or a competition between brothers and/or sisters. This problem has been around for years and years, as seen mentioned in the Bible between Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were biblical figures who were brothers. They each had to bring a sacrifice to God. When Abel’s sacrifice was bigger and better than his brother’s, Cain became enraged and killed Abel out of jealousy. In extreme cases, sibling rivalry can even be fatal. A parent’s attitude of carelessness is the cause of sibling rivalry. Lack of attention, structure and acceptance due to the carelessness of parents will cause sibling conflict.

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Parents’ have an extremely vital and significant role in a child’s life. From birth, a child needs affection and attention from their mother to develop correctly. Since parents are so important “mothers and fathers both provide essential… influences on children’s emotion regulation abilities” (Miller, “Sibling…”). The absence of attention from a parent can be detrimental to children, especially if one sibling is getting recognition and another is not. A parent who is careless about certain offspring and is too focused on themselves or another child, is the source of a budding rivalry between siblings. Lack of attention will cause a child to become jealous of their siblings who are receiving attention maybe because of their good grades or athleticism. This can also happen if a child feels threatened by a new baby in the family that is getting all of the attention. The child may feel abandoned or uncared for and it is hard losing their position of center of attention. Jealousy will seed animosity towards a sibling leading to a competition between the attention getter and the forgotten child. No kid wants to be treated unfairly. A child may experience jealousy because of the “threat of losing a valued relationship to a rival” (Miller, “Sibling…”). This careless lack of attention can also cause children to act out just to gain some sort of notice. Children can easily gain this negative attention through fighting with their siblings just to arouse their parents. Many aspects can cause lack of attention but, “stress in the parents’ lives can decrease the amount of time and attention parents can give the children and increase sibling rivalry”.

A parent who does not care about creating a structure for the home, will lead to the high chances of their children fighting. This is common when children “don’t have rules to guide their behavior, so they tend…to fight more”. Children can often become anxious in a home with no structure. Thus, they do not know what to expect or how to act around their family. Therefore, the kids will continuously try to test the waters and experiment with boundaries through sibling fights. This will help the child to know what is exactly wanted from them. Stress and anxiousness in a child’s life can “shorten their fuses, and decrease their ability to tolerate frustration, leading to more conflict”. It is vital that parents care enough to create a structure in the home because it “offers children a sense of security and control in a world full of uncertainty – and helps create healthy habits that last into adulthood” (Buskirk, Wendy). Children need clear rules to follow, parents who do not care to create them are causing the conflict between their children. “Having set routines can also reinforce better behavior” so that children can learn to get along with their siblings instead of competing with them. In many homes, parents neglect their offspring and there is absolutely no structure in the house. This will lead to many problems, but a main trouble is sibling rivalry. Children who are neglected and are bored will also become frustrated. Parents failing to have regular family time together, like sitting down and having dinner, can increase the possibility of the children getting involved in conflict with each other. Having set routines can help the kids be “able to deal with the unknown” and become less prone to starting fights. Doing this will help to reduce anxiety and will make the children more cooperative and less resistant.

Lack of acceptance from parents can be very hard on siblings and children. One of the most basic human needs is to belong. This will affect them in many aspects of life, even as they grow older into adult hood. Absence of approval can cause deep rooted problems within children and teens. Their mental images of themselves will be distorted if they do not get the embrace they need, causing other psychological issues as well. Many children feel as though they have to fit into a mold of their other or older siblings. They think they have to be and live up to the things that their siblings did because parents will have the same expectations of them. These children may find themselves “competing to define who they are as an individual”. Children will act out through fighting with their brothers and sisters, just to show they are separate from their siblings. They want to be accepted for their own talents and if they see their parent’s more involved in their siblings interests they will get jealous and act out. It has been shown that “how parents treat their children and react to conflicts, can make a big difference in how well siblings get along”.

Some people believe sibling rivalry is not caused by parents’ careless attitudes at all. It is believed that sibling rivalry can start outside of the home. Sibling rivalry could be caused from approval of peers or teachers. Having an older sibling that is very successful in sports, school or just social life can be daunting to a younger sibling. Younger siblings feel the need to live up to their brother’s and sister’s accomplishments. For example, a math teacher may expect you to do extremely well in their class because your older sister always got an A, but math is not your strong subject at all. This can cause conflict between siblings because you are consistently feeling compared to your siblings from your peers and other mentors. The sibling will feel jealous of the appreciation that their other sibling has gotten or still gets. There will be frustration because they know they are a different person and have a different mind compared to their brothers and/or sisters. I do not think this argument reigns true because of how significant parent’s roles are in a child’s life. I believe parents are the biggest cause of sibling rivalry.

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In conclusion, sibling rivalry will continue to be a problem within families until the end of time. This issue is seen every day in common families and in the most flawed families as well. Children that have to deal with competition and jealousy will deal with immense stress and anxiety. Sibling rivalry is overall caused by careless parents’ attitudes. Lack of attention, structure and acceptance due to the carelessness of parents will cause conflict between siblings and children can be forever affected by this. I think it is important for parents to recognize their position and importance that they have on their children’s lives and well beings. They should strive to eliminate their negative actions and become more aware of their children’s different talents and interests. They should set their children up to be successful and individual people, instead of tearing them down with comparison and negativity.

Works Cited

  • Buskirk, Wendy Von. “Family Structure: Its Importance and How to Create It.” Detroit and Ann Arbor Metro Parent, Detroit and Ann Arbor Metro Parent, 2 Oct. 2017,
  • “Coping with Sibling Rivalry.” The Center for Parenting Education,
  • Miller, Alison L., et al. “Sibling Jealousy in a Triadic Context with Mothers and Fathers.” Social Development, vol. 9, no. 4, Nov. 2000, pp. 433–457. EBSCOhost,
  • “Sibling Rivalry – What Causes Rivalry between Siblings.” Somatoform Disorders – Types, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment – GoMentor,

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