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What Is Adult Sibling Rivalry?

Article Details
  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 10 February 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Adult sibling rivalry is a sense of competitiveness, aggression, or hurt that often arises between two or more siblings who are of adult age. This can stem from rivalry and issues that siblings felt and experienced in their youth, which often extends into adulthood. Some forms of rivalry can arise during adulthood, though this is typically the result of a particular action rather than an ongoing sense of youthful negativity between two siblings. Adult sibling rivalry can be quite difficult for siblings to move beyond, especially if it is founded in experiences from their youth, though many rivalries lessen or disappear as siblings grow older.

There are two basic ways in which adult sibling rivalry can form: either as a result of conflict the siblings experienced in youth or as new development during adulthood. The childhood of siblings can be one of the most important foundational aspects of their adult lives and relationships. Brothers and sisters who get along as children, do not feel an intense sense of competition, and are both loved and supported equally by their parents are more likely to develop healthy adult relationships with each other. When the childhood experiences of siblings are filled with abuse or favoritism from parents, then adult sibling rivalry can often develop as brothers and sisters remain in roles with each other similar to those they occupied as children.

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Adult sibling rivalry can also arise during adulthood, even between siblings who were otherwise quite close. This often occurs when one sibling gets married, as the change in the person’s life and focus on a new relationship can make a brother or sister feel unimportant or replaced by the spouse. Major slights and offenses between siblings can also result in adult sibling rivalry, such as financial obligations that go unpaid or inappropriate sexual conduct between someone’s sibling and spouse. These types of rivalries can continue for many years, especially if neither sibling is willing to apologize to or forgive the other.

As brothers and sisters grow older, however, there is a tendency for adult sibling rivalry to fade. This is especially true of rivalries that are based on childhood actions and competitiveness. Siblings often remain a constant in the lives of each other; as people grow older and see their kids move away, their parents grow ill or die, and other friends become more distant, there is a strong desire for many people to hold onto whatever consistency remains in their life. An adult sibling rivalry can be forgotten with time, or simply become unimportant when compared to the realities of life and death.

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