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Sibling Rivalry

What is sibling rivalry?

It is the jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters. Sibling rivalry can flare into quarrels and fights. It starts from childhood and continues throughout adolescence and even beyond, if not tackled early.

Why does it occur?

Jealousy is the basic cause of sibling rivalry. When one starts to feel jealous, he feels the need to forever compete and fight with other sibling.

What happens when it exists?

Many other unhealthy feelings set in, such as:

  • Dissatisfaction towards parents
  • Belittling, arguing or fighting with siblings
  • Unequal love and attention given by parents
  • Inability to enjoy times together with siblings
  • Hatred towards other siblings

These feelings result in negative behaviors which include:

  • Making rude remarks
  • Behaving nastily towards each other
  • Disrespectfulness
  • Frequent verbal and  physical fights
  • Rejoicing when other siblings get into trouble

What can you do to overcome it?

Life is not a head-to-head competition. Jealousy can be avoided and handled.

AFew tips to overcome sibling rivalry:

  • Separate – go for a walk or a separate room, before losing your temper
  • Talk to your parents – about the rivalry
  • Discuss with your siblings – about what bothers you
  • Derive a set of rules – to prevent misunderstandings
  • Take turns when using a common thing – e.g. TV, computers, phones
  • Learn to give and take
  • Cooperate – instead of compete
  • Negotiate – do not demand
  • Show respect – you will be respected
  • Take a breath and count to 10 – when feeling angry or frustrated

What happens if nothing is done about it?

Not doing anything will lead to a strained relationship between siblings. This will present as:

  • Feeling uncomfortable in the presence of siblings
  • Inability to communicate with siblings
  • Loss of trust and respect for siblings
  • Lack of care and concern for siblings
    • Feeling bad about oneself:
    • Believing that one is a failure
    • Having a low self-esteem
  • Continuous hostility towards siblings

Where can you get help?

You can seek help from your:

  • Parents
  • Trusted family members
  • School counselors
  • Religious teachers


Seek professional help from:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
Last Reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Fauzi binti Ismail
Reviewed : Dr. Eni Rahaiza Bt. Muhd Ramli