How Toxic Parenting Can Be The Reason For Sibling Rivalry

While siblings should be best friends, they are often rivals. 

Although many believe that the relationships between siblings are built on love, respect, support, and care, the reality is quite different. Unfortunately, the majority of siblings have extremely difficult and complicated relationships – especially if they come from dysfunctional families. Nevertheless, even in perfectly healthy families, some siblings do not get along and are even rivals.

Toxic parenting can cause rivalry between siblings.

While numerous things can drive a wedge between siblings, toxic parenting is one of the most common causes. If one (or both) of the parents have a favorite child and show it, it is not surprising that the children will feel like rivals. Moreover, if the parents are narcissistic, controlling, or manipulative, they can harm their children beyond repair.

Taking this further, a narcissistic parent can use thought control and manipulation strategies that can ruin the relationship between siblings.

For instance, using scapegoating (a manipulation technique whereby one person is singled out and unreasonably blamed) can destroy a child’s self-esteem and turn their siblings against them. Sadly, at a young age, children are unable to understand that their parents’ behavior is wrong and manipulative. Therefore, as noted by Peg Streep, they will “buy into the family “truth”—that there was one “bad apple” among them responsible for all the family’s ills”.

What causes sibling warfare in healthy families?

In their book The Sibling Bond, Stephen Bank and Michael Kahn explain that it is the degree of identification siblings have with each other that determines their closeness. That is, siblings can have close identification, partial identification, and distant identification. While one would think that close identification is the healthiest type, it can actually be unhealthy. The reason for this is that when siblings are too similar, they may lose their selfhood and become unsure of who they are.

Partial identification is deemed the healthiest as it means siblings can appreciate each other’s differences and be friends. In other words, they actually enjoy each other’s presence and spend time together without feeling forced to. Finally, distant identification is one that makes siblings feel as though they share nothing besides a family. They feel no connection and they grow up to live separate lives.

It is important to note that age difference plays a vital role in the relationship between siblings. That is to say that with time, families evolve and change; therefore, although two children can be born into the same family, they might experience it in very different ways if they are born several years apart. Ultimately, age difference, personality, and parenting can all impact the relationship and connection between siblings.

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