The Effects of Sibling Jealousy

by Carrie Perles
Even if you're sure you've never given one child more attention than another, your kids' perception may have nothing to do with the truth.

Even if you're sure you've never given one child more attention than another, your kids' perception may have nothing to do with the truth.

Although siblings often grow up in the same family and may share the same parents, the dynamics among siblings can affect each member of the family. When one child is jealous of another, this jealousy can wreak havoc on not only their current relationship, but on the evolution of each child's sense of self. Although parents can never completely eliminate sibling jealousy, they can take steps toward soothing the jealousy by holding themselves back from comparing or labeling their children.

Sibling Conflict

The most obvious result of sibling jealousy is the conflict it creates. A jealous sibling is constantly on the lookout for ways that he can "one up" his sibling. Verbal arguments and physical fights can result from jealousy, and parents may find themselves at wit's end trying to navigate the waters of their children's conflicts. Arguments may center around anything, from taking turns to personal space, and from chores to physical possessions.

Underachievement Can Result

When one child is jealous of another, a common reaction is for the jealous child to give up in that area of achievement. For example, if a child is extremely strong academically, a jealous sibling might back away from even attempting to excel in schoolwork, focusing on areas, instead, in which she is able to excel. This is especially common when dealing with two same-gender children spaced closely together, such as a very talented older child and a younger child or the youngest child who is much younger than any other sibling. In each of these cases, the younger child may feel unable to compete with the older one, due to a belief that she will never be able to "catch up," anyway.

Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Sometimes, children are jealous of their siblings because of the unequal attention or encouragement their parents gave to them. For example, if a parent is naturally closer to one child or seems to favor that child unfairly, the other sibling may act up simply to gain the parent's attention. This may manifest itself through misbehaviors at home or in school, low grades in class, or via other concerning behaviors. Parents who witness these types of attention-getting techniques should first focus on whether they have been treating one child unfairly, and second, they should consider how they can increase positive attention so that the jealous child will feel taken care of and noticed, and he will become less jealous, as a result.

Low Self-Esteem

Sibling jealousy can also do a number on a child's self-esteem. When a child constantly compares himself to his more successful sibling such as in academics, sports, social prowess, or any other area, he will find himself constantly coming up short. No matter how hard he tries, he feels that he will never be able to be "great" because his sibling has already taken that title. This self-esteem issue can continue into adulthood, and can affect the way that both siblings view themselves.

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About the Author

Keren (Carrie) Perles is a freelance writer with professional experience in publishing since 2004. Perles has written, edited and developed curriculum for educational publishers. She writes online articles about various topics, mostly about education or parenting, and has been a mother, teacher and tutor for various ages. Perles holds a Bachelor of Arts in English communications from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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