Sibling Rivalry Into Adulthood – Is this Healthy?

Sibling rivalry is healthy up to a point, when the children are young. But the sibling rivalry into adulthood might lead to destruction of relations not only between the siblings but also with the parents. Therefore, from an early age, when the children are young, parents should take preventative steps to ensure that they give everything including love and attention equally to all children.

It is very important that what is done with one child should also be done with the other!

What is sibling rivalry in children ?

Sibling rivalry means when children try to compete with each other and go to any lengths to “win”. Sometimes sibling rivalry is healthy whereby it encourages all the siblings to do better. But if proper steps are not taken by parents to control the rivalry it may carry on into their (children’s) adulthood!

What causes sibling rivalry in children?

Sibling rivalry is caused by factors such as:

  • Unequal love and attention to all children- sometimes parents do this intentionally and sometimes they do it unintentionally. If they do it intentionally, it is favoritism. Please read my previous post on favoritism here.
  • Parents comparing children which increases the rivalry- “why don’t you try to become like your brother?” Please read my previous post on comparing children here.
  • Children wanting praise or attention from the parents .
  • Children trying to get into the “good books ” of parents.
  • Child might feel,even if its not the case, that parents are always taking the side of his/her sibling when the siblings fight.
  • Huge age difference between siblings – if the gap is huge (10 years+) it might intensify sibling rivalry as over the years the circumstances of parents might change, what was possible with first child might not be possible with the younger one and vice versa .

Sibling rivalry might increase or reduce in adulthood.

Little bit of sibling rivalry is normal

All siblings fight. Through the fighting they bond as well. They compete with each other too- to try to grab attention of the parents. This is all very normal. So if your children are doing this, it is quite normal.

Don’t encourage the rivalry

Don’t encourage rivalry by comparing children. Sometimes you might do it unintentionally or blurt out something like “your brother does this for me all the time, why don’t you do it?” Even if you do say it in the heat of the moment, reassure the child by saying that you love all of them equally .

Too much sibling rivalry might be carried into adulthood

If there is too much sibling rivalry in childhood, it is more than likely that it will get carried into adulthood. If it does it might not be healthy for the siblings. After the parents have passed on, the siblings only have each other. So it is the responsibility of both siblings and parents to try to make effort to reduce rivalry. It must be remembered by the siblings, they too are adults now and responsible for their own actions.

Siblings should also remember(being adults now) that their relation with each other is different from the one with the parents. One relation should not spoil the other.

Reasons for sibling rivalry in adults

  • Favoritism towards one sibling by the parents.
  • One sibling just doesn’t get on with the other due to difference in their nature or character.
  • More dependence on one child by elderly parents compared to others.
  • Sibling rivalry into adulthood might also be as a result of differences which might have cropped up between the siblings due to certain incidences or miscommunication or misunderstanding. This might have nothing to do with the parents.
  • Sibling might not get on with the spouse of the other sibling. This will affect siblings relations with each other and lead to rivalry.
  • Competition between spouses of siblings might also lead to sibling rivalry with regards to wealth or social status.

Effects of sibling rivalry into adulthood

  • The sibling who feels he/she isn’t getting attention from parents might have problems with self-confidence.
  • Relations between siblings will get affected due to fights and communication issues. After all adults are not as forgiving as children!
  • Siblings will continue competing with each other which might not be healthy  and will lead to a lot of stress.

If you are facing sibling rivalry

Try to take these steps if you are facing sibling rivalry:

  • Forgive and forget. Try to be the bigger person.
  • Make peace with yourself first. Even if you do feel that your sibling is getting more love and attention of your parents then you should first to accept the situation. Try to look at it as an outsider rather than looking at it as an affected emotional person.
  • Don’t dwell on negative things which serve you nothing! In fact, do not discuss or complain or rant about every “episode”.
  • Continue to be “normal” with your parent(s) by offering them what you can. Don’t beat yourself if your opinion or your idea doesn’t get accepted by them and the “favorite” sibling’s idea gets accepted.
  • Treat yourself nicely and maintain your self-respect. Don’t stop loving yourself. The important thing is to love yourself. Belief in yourself.
  • If you feel that your self-respect is being compromised than maintain distance from your sibling for little while. Take a break but not for too long otherwise you might grow too distant.
  • If the sibling rivalry is due to misunderstandings or miscommunication , try to sort it out amicably with your sibling as early as possible.

By being competitive and jealous of your sibling will not serve you in any way. It will just make you unhappy .


Parents though elderly should try and accept and acknowledge opinions of all their adult children and perhaps explain to them why they are unable to accept opinions so that children do not feel “unwanted” which might later give rise to sibling rivalry. Parents should try to be just and fair to all their children from the children’s childhood into adulthood.

If sibling rivalry has nothing to do with parents, but difference of opinion just accept it and move on. Don’t hold grudges. It will just pull you down.

Have you experienced sibling rivalry? How did you deal with ? How did your parents react to it? Please share via comment box below.


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