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Sibling Rivalry, Its Causes and Interventions Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2020


Sibling rivalry refers to a type of competition or animosity that is evident among brothers and sisters during their young ages. The competition if not well monitored by the parents or the guardian may continue through adulthood and may lead to numerous fights and injuries. One of the contributing factors to such animosity is the close age difference between the elder and the younger sibling (David, Gil, and Raviv 79). Sibling rivalry starts early in childhood when the kids start competing and fighting for toys. In most cases, parents tend to favor the younger child when resolving the dispute. Such favoritism heightens the resentments between the rival kids, and it may lead to the failure of the approach adopted by the caregiver.

Unmonitored childhood rivalry may continue to adulthood causing serious effects on the affected individuals. At adulthood, such rivalry may lead to the infliction of serious harm to one party by the other. Parental intervention in childhood dispute resolution is an excellent way of mitigating adulthood rivalry. While most scholars tend to emphasize the negatives of the childhood rivalry, some psychologists argue that childhood rivalry may produce positive results in the development of the kid (Smith and Ross 792). Childhood disputes impart dispute resolution techniques on the kid that may be helpful later in adulthood. Additionally, such disputes may motivate the child to work hard to outsmart the rival and earn parental love. However, the negatives outdo the positives, hence, the need for mediation to alleviate the adverse effects posed by such rivalry.

This paper seeks to unravel the causes and the interventions available for the competing kids to mitigate the escalation of the rivalry to uncontrollable levels. In the achievement of the said purpose, the paper shall center on a rivalry dispute that I witnessed. The dispute revolved around favoritism and differential abilities between the warring kids. Children tend to win parental love through working hard both at home and in school to appease the parents. The controversy presented in this paper is grounded on similar views whereby the elder kid performed well in school yet the parents did not give him enough attention. Instead, they tended to favor the younger kid causing conflicts between the two children. Consequently, the elder brother wondered why the parents neglected him despite performing better than his younger brother academic wise. The analysis of the case study shall include a review of the available literature to support the approach taken by the mediator.

Identification of the parties

Disputes among siblings arise due to the feeling of neglect by one child. In most cases, the elder child exhibits a feeling that preferential treatment is given to the younger brother or sister. Parents tend to favor the younger kids during the problem-solving process, which compounds the preferential feeling in the older sibling. Other factors that may lead to sibling rivalry include favoritism and neglect, the small age gap between the rivals, differential capabilities, and jealousy just to mention a few. Some scholars assert that some kinds of rivalry are grounded in personal attitudes as opposed to material things (Menesini, Camodeca, and Nocentini 927). In this paper, the dispute revolved around my two younger siblings, one of them aged 8 years and the other 6 years. The two kids engaged in violence that lasted for about 30 minutes. The kids live with their mother at home, and they share almost everything ranging from the home library to the sleeping arrangements.

The issue between the parties

The dispute arose when my dad presented a Christmas gift to my youngest sibling and failed to provide an equivalent bequest to the elder one. The reactions by the elder kid were not notable at the outset, but it was later evident as both kids were off to their bedroom. We had traveled to Saudi Arabia where we were to spend the Christmas holiday as a family. My mother had raised concerns that the two kids had been fighting each other at home, but no interventions had been made yet to stop the numerous conflicts. This adventurous visit presented an opportunity for me to witness a dispute resolution mediation talks sponsored by my father.

At the plane, everything seemed right as the two children sat calmly in their respective seats. However, when we landed at the airport and rent a taxi to the restaurant, we were to visit, the kids started fighting over who among them should occupy the front seat. The dispute was quickly settled when my dad intervened and ordered the elder one to allow the young one to sit wherever he wished. I encouraged the elder kid to come over and sit with me on the back seat. He accepted my proposal, and we drove off. During the drive, the younger kid confronted the dad to buy him a Christmas gift and after a long struggle, the dad gave in to the demands.

He promised to buy him a gift of his choice immediately we alighted from the car. In about an hour, we were at the restaurant we were set to reside for the period of our stay in Saudi Arabia. Immediately after we alighted, my dad consulted with the taxi driver who agreed to get a charismas gift for the kid. In a few minutes, the taxi driver was back with a small carton that he presented to the beneficiary. I noted that the left out kid was not happy as we walked into the restaurant. I tried in vain to enquire why he was not cheerful as usual. I presumed that the change in the environment and perhaps the hot sun caused the boredom.

In the evening, dad ordered the kids to go to their room and sleep. Just moments after the children went to their rooms they started confronting each other. The issue this time was the sleeping arrangement. Both children wanted to sleep on the right side, and none wanted to sleep on the left. I opted to intervene and solve the issue, but my dad ordered me to let them solve their disputes. The dispute went on for about half an hour with each kid shouting at each other, but no fights were evident. My dad listened carefully right from the outset, and I wondered why he did not intervene even as the shouting intensified. All this time my mother narrated to me the undesirable behavior exhibited by the kids back at home and told me that the problem was persistent. She identified the small age gap between the two kids as the causal factor of the problem and wondered if it was possible to solve the rival issues between the two given that the two were always together, at home and in school.

After the 30 minutes of shouting, the kids started fighting each other. The fighting attracted the attention of my dad who rose from his seat and went directly to the kids’ room. Mum and I followed him to the room and found the two kids kicking each other. I expected my dad to order the sleeping arrangements, but to my surprise, he summoned both of them to the sitting room saying that a lasting solution would be sought. At the sitting room, the kids were allowed 30 minutes in which they were required to give their side of the story.

The two kids were encouraged to be open, and they were promised that they would not be punished if they gave all the material facts about the dispute. The younger child was the first to air his grievances, and he noted that his older brother had always confronted him both at home and in school. He also claimed that his bigger brother had been threatening him against disclosure of the beatings to the parents. During the session, the kid seemed to hide some issues about the dispute apparently due to the fear of more beating by the accused later in our absence. My dad noted the fear and assured the kid that no one would ever beat him if he told the truth. To everyone’s surprise, the kid revealed that the bigger brother had been confronting him over allegations of favoritism. He pointed out that the day’s incident where the dad gave the younger kid a charismas gift and left out the one was the cause of the violence. Other previous cases involving favoritism were also cited.

Next, it was the turn for the accused to give his side of the story. He expressed concerns that his younger brother had been abusing him and that the beating was a way of effecting discipline. What shocked us most is his confession that he hated his younger brother. Asked why he hated him, he claimed that the kid received much of the parents’ attention yet he was a poor performer in school. He cited the case where the dad bought a Christmas gift for the younger brother and left him out. The child seemed to suggest that he was neglected in many other aspects yet he outshined his brother at school. According to his view, he deserved better treatment than his brother did due to his good performance at school.


After listening to both kids, my dad explained to them the fact that we’re brothers and they ought to be best friends. He asked both of them to sit together and provided each with a sheet of paper and a pen. He asked them to write the sentences he uttered. Some of the sentences were as follows:

  1. I will always love my brother
  2. I will share everything with my brother
  3. I will help my brother cope with his weaknesses
  4. I will never fight my brother
  5. I love my brother

He ordered the kids to repeat the exercise daily before they went to bed. Besides, the kids were apprised of the negative effects of fighting, and they were asked to draft an agreement that they would desist from fighting each other. Additionally, the kids drafted a cease-fight agreement and the punishments for non-compliance with the rules. Creating such an exercise promotes the bond between the siblings and reduces the chances of misunderstandings (Phillips and Schrodt 643). It also helps the children realize the adverse effects of conflicts. Children need to be advised about the negative effects of conflicts to encourage them to refrain from warfare. The children should be allowed to set the punishments they want to be administered to them for non-compliance with the set rules. Allowing the kids to agree on the rules and the punishments thereof helps in increasing the compliance levels.

Next, he explained the strengths and weaknesses of each kid and asked the boys to add to the list. After the list had been exhausted, he encouraged the two to acknowledge each other’s strengths and assist each other overcome the challenges facing them. He gave an example of himself and my mother to illustrate the notion that people have varying capabilities and weaknesses. Creating awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of each kid helps alleviate rivalry problems since it promotes a sense of acceptance of the challenges facing them (Ross and Luzinski 269).

Lastly, the father assured the elder sibling that he remained his favorite kid despite the younger one being a rival. He explained that the decision to buy the younger brother gifts regularly was meant to remedy his poor performance in school. If the younger boy did not receive much attention at home, he would be psychologically affected given that he was a poor performer at school. He encouraged the two fighting boys to view life from a positive perspective and avoid contradicting each other for petty things. Throughout the discussions, he seemed to give enough attention to each speaker. Creating a dispute resolution table could go a long way in mitigating the prevalence among siblings.


The topic of sibling rivalry has attracted numerous researchers who seek to unravel the causes and the effects of competition among children. This has resulted in the development of various theories to explain the cause and the mitigating factors for the vice. The rivalry is intense at the children’s tender ages and tends to be less severe as the children grow up. However, mismanagement of the rivalry at the kids’ tender ages may lead to its continuance into adulthood. Ross and Luzinski argue that parental involvement in dispute resolution is an important factor in mitigating the vice (264). However, David, Gil, and Raviv dispute the findings arguing that parents should allow the kids to solve their disputes their way (76). The parents should only intervene if the kids fail to come up with a solution to the problem or in case the dispute escalates to violence. Differentials in the kids’ strengths and abilities are part of the leading causes of rivalry among children, and thus kids ought to be advised on their strengths and weaknesses of each and encouraged to support each other to overcome the weaknesses.

Phillips and Schrodt argue that allowing kids to solve their disputes without adults’ interference could be a sure way of ensuring that kids acquire dispute resolution skills that may be helpful later in adulthood (649). The application of the said view is evident case analyzed in this paper. The father allowed the kids to confront each other for almost half an hour and he only intervened when the kids failed to reach a consensus. The intervention that followed was in the form of a roundtable meeting with the fighting children where each child expressed his issues.

The small age difference was noted as one of the factors that shaped the violence between the children. According to Menesini, Camodeca, and Nocentini, the introduction of a newborn to the family leads to competition since the older sibling perceives the young one as a rival (932). In most cases, the young sibling receives the attention of the parents due to his/her tender age. This replacement may present problems between the two brothers as each seeks to appease the parents to earn their love and favor. Whiteman, McHale, and Soli state that the rivalry may be beneficial to the competing kids as each seeks to attain the parents’ favor (125). This view can be substantiated by the case study reviewed in this paper. The older brother worked hard in school to earn his parents’ love through good performance.

Smith and Ross claim that favoritism could lead to sibling rivalry as the neglected child will tend to exhibit hatred towards the favored one (801). In this case study, the older brother hates his younger sibling only because his father tends to buy him gifts yet he is not a good performer at school. To mitigate the rivalry, the father ought to show equality in the distribution of the benefits to the kids. He should promote equality and ensure that he gives enough attention to each kid.


Sibling rivalry refers to the conflicts that may arise between brothers and sisters during their childhood. Parents and caregivers of the victims of such violence should intervene promptly to preempt the continuance of the rivalry in adulthood. Adulthood rivalry may have adverse effects on the parties involved given that the parties have the strength to cause serious harm to each other at the later stages. Preferential treatment is one of the leading causes of animosity between kids. Other factors that may lead to rivalry among kids include differential capabilities among kids, close age differences, and gender differences. One of the intervention strategies proposed by various psychologists is the promotion of love amongst the kids by the caregiver.

Children need to be encouraged to view their siblings as their closest friends and to act in the best interest of each other. Other ways to mitigate such rivalry include equal treatment of all the family members by the parents and the guardians. The case study presented in this paper covers most of the causal and mitigating factors. In the paper, the effects of favoritism and differential abilities are well illustrated. The elder kid accused the younger one of being favored by the parents despite being poor academically. The elder kid wondered why the parents hated him even though he always outsmarted his brother in school. In the case analyzed in this paper, the mediator adopted a bipartisan approach to offer an immediate solution to the problem that affected the kids. The mediator, one of the kids’ parents explained to each kid their ability and weaknesses and encouraged them to see each other as a brother and as their closest friend. The approach borrows from the literature touching on the topic.

Works Cited

David, Hanna, Mali Gil, and Idit Raviv. “Sibling relationships among Eilat families with at least one gifted child.” Gifted and Talented International 24.2 (2009): 71-88. Print.

Menesini, Ersilia, Marina Camodeca, and Annalaura Nocentini. “Bullying among siblings: The role of personality and relational variables.” British Journal of Developmental Psychology 28.4 (2010): 921-939. Print.

Phillips, Kaitlin, and Paul Schrodt. “Sibling Antagonism and Shared Family Identity as Mediators of Differential Parental Treatment and Relational Outcomes in the Sibling Relationship.” Western Journal of Communication 79.5 (2015): 634-654. Print.

Ross, Hildy, and Marysia Lazinski. “Parent mediation empowers sibling conflict resolution.” Early Education and Development 25.2 (2014): 259-275. Print.

Smith, Julie, and Hildy Ross. “Training parents to mediate sibling disputes affects children’s negotiation and conflict understanding.” Child development 78.3 (2007): 790-805. Print.

Whiteman, Shawn, Susan McHale, and Anna Soli. “Theoretical perspectives on sibling relationships.” Journal of Family Theory & Review 3.2 (2011): 124-139. Print.

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