The Impact of Parenting on Sibling Relationships

Positive sibling relationships boast plenty of benefits, including social skill tact and lifelong resilience. Likewise, negative sibling relationships may be detrimental to children’s well being. As a caregiver, here’s what you can do to facilitate strong sibling bonds among your children.

Kevin Zou

A demographic study from 2017 showed that more than eighty percent of Americans under the age of 18 have siblings. With sibling relationships being the longest familial relationship on average, it is clear that sibling dynamics can have influential effects on people’s values and outlooks on life. A brother or sister is often the first peer a developing child is exposed to. In other words, sibling interactions are the basis for social interactions as the child begins to mature and meet more people. Positive sibling relationships can help individuals build social tact, mental resilience, and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Parents play a powerful role in fostering these healthy sibling dynamics. Studies have shown that parenting characterized by healthy boundaries and plenty of warmth (e.g. authoritative parenting) is more likely to lead siblings to develop compassion and tolerance for each other. Children raised by authoritative parents are more likely to support each other through tough times, a component to building resilience. On the other hand, neglectful parenting, which is defined by a scarcity of warmth and involvement in a child’s life, can lead to indifference among siblings, or a lack of sibling warmth. Children of neglectful parents may be less emotionally available for each other and more likely to internalize their problems. Because the effects of sibling dynamics can translate into other personal relationships, it is crucial that sibling tensions are addressed.

Keeping these principles in mind, parents can use different strategies to encourage siblings to be more friendly with each other. For example, parents can avoid showing favoritism to prevent resentment from arising between siblings. Playing favorites can not only harm the unfavored sibling, but the favored sibling as well. For unfavored children, they may develop feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and depression. Favored children may be subjected to resentment from unfavored siblings. Parents can schedule “one-on-one” bonding sessions to make certain that each sibling feels loved and cared for. To ensure that siblings can independently resolve conflicts, parents can promote communication and compromises as means that encourage siblings to express their needs and feelings to each other.

The effects of sibling dynamics are lifelong and influential to a child’s mental development. As adults, siblings with positive bonds provide mutual emotional support and are more apt to deal with the stresses of adulthood. Parents can set the tone of sibling relationships through showing a supportive parenting style that accommodates each sibling’s emotional needs. Though sibling conflicts are inevitable, parents should be aware of their nature and work to resolve any early sibling hostility that could harm the children’s mental wellness. Positive sibling dynamics are the backbone of healthy personal relationships, and parents can foster their kids’ social wellness by being aware of their treatment towards their children and encouraging a strong family dynamic.