Reducing sibling rivalry


As many parents know, sibling relationships have some surprising benefits and challenges. Most parents rank sibling rivalry as the number one problem they face in family life. Until now, these relationships have been studied very little.

Few guidelines for how to reduce conflict

“In some cultures, the roles of older and younger, male and female siblings are better defined, and in those more-structured family relationships, there is not much room for bullying and disrespect,” explained Mark Feinberg, research professor in the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development. “In the United States, and Western culture more generally, there are few guidelines for parents about how to reduce sibling conflict and enhance bonding and solidarity among siblings. This is an important issue not only because siblings share a lifetime-long relationship, but also because sibling relations appear to be as important as parenting and peer relations for many aspects of a child’s development and well-being.”

SIBS Program created to address this need

SIBlings are Special Program was created by Feinberg and Susan McHale, professor human development and family studies, to address relationships between brothers and sisters to strengthen development. SIBS consists of 12 after school sessions for elementary-aged sibling pairs, as well as monthly family nights. They focus on sharing responsibilities and making decisions together. Negotiating for a win-win, setting goals together, finding mutually enjoyable activities and understanding each other’s feelings are included.

Working as a team

“Sibling relationship are the only life-long relationships in most people’s lives,” Feinberg explained. “This makes it especially important that sisters and brothers learn at a young age how to work as a team and support each other.” Siblings who participated in the trial had more positive interactions, increased self-control and demonstrated greater social competence and academic performance. There was decreased depression, shyness and worry. And with less stress in the house, the mothers of these children reported a happier home life as well and a decrease in their depression levels.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Adolescent Health


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