Examining Sibling Relationships

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It is impossible to find a family that is problem-free. Family problems range from financial troubles to sibling rivalries to marital differences. Because these issues are inevitable, they often come without any severe consequences. Children are extremely resilient and can recover from temporary and mild family issues. The more extreme cases of parental differential treatment and poor sibling relationships, however, stem from more than just day-to-day family rivalries and can be a risk factor for mood disorders and psychological adjustment problems. Differential negative treatment of parents to one child negatively affects family and sibling relationships. Poor sibling relationships and differential parental treatment are an environmental risk factor for psychological adjustment and major depression throughout adolescence and adulthood. Sibling rivalry is essentially a competition between siblings and the measures to which one will go to receive attention from a parent. Though most parents will not admit to having a “favorite child,” research shows that even at an early age, children are able to pick out differences in parental treatment between oneself and his or her sibling. In fact, “parental rejection” has been linked with newborn’s feeding and sleeping problems and failure to thrive (Rushton). As a struggle for attention, Shanahan describes a possible interaction of a dyadic sibling relationship by saying that older siblings may abstain from becoming emotionally close with younger siblings to make up for their disappointment of the parent-child relationship. In an opposing manner, the younger sibling will act out behaviorally to obtain attention from parents. Both gender and age play a role in the effects parental differe... ... middle of paper ... ...ildren the same way their parents treated them. Everyone is born with a certain temperament and personality that they are born with and that remains stable throughout life. If a parent and a child’s personalities are dissimilar and don’t mesh well, this is referred to as a bad “goodness of fit.” The “symbolization” hypothesis could be intact if a child reminds the caregiver of someone else, such as the child’s other birth parent, the caregiver uses the child as a symbol that person. If that parent is either dead or was abusive or there was a painful breakup, the caregiver may treat that child with the negativity they associate with the other parent. Possibly the most interesting hypothesis is the “family secret” hypothesis. When a child is the result of an affair, or holds any other secret, a parent may single out the child for being the holder of that secret.
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