How Your Own Sibling Relationships Can Affect Your Kids

By: Jolene Roehlkepartain

Last week, I talked about sibling rivalry, but did you know that sibling rivalry, carried over into adulthood, can affect the type of relationship your sibling has with your child? Researchers have identified five different types of sibling relationships (and how common they are). These include:

Congenial relationships (34%)—These are siblings who have become friends in adulthood.
Loyal relationships (30%)—These are siblings that base their relationship on their family history and are loyal to each other and their family.
Intimate relationships (14%)—These siblings are very close and very devoted to each other.
Apathetic relationships (11%)—These siblings feel indifferent toward each other and rarely see each other.
Hostile relationships (11%)—These siblings avoid each other since their relationship is based on very negative feelings, such as anger or resentment.

What kind of relationship do you have with each one of your siblings?

If you have an apathetic or hostile relationship with a sibling, be careful. You don’t want to drag your kids into that situation. If you want to reconcile with an apathetic or hostile sibling, do it on your own terms. Then once the relationship improves (if it can), only then, bring your kids into the mix.

It’s always easier for kids to have strong relationships with an aunt or an uncle if everyone lives close-by. Yet, technology has also made it easier for those who are separated geographically. Some families do a video phone call each week (Skype is a popular and free video chat service) or stay in touch through social media.

Other families that are separated from siblings sometimes create an alternative family. I know a group of friends with kids who has all family members living out of state. They decided to have their kids call the other adults in the group “aunt” and “uncle” even though there were no blood ties. As the kids grew up, deep bonds formed, and the kids all knew they had two groups of aunts and uncles—one that lived nearby and the other that lived far away.

What’s important is for you to have support from other caring adults and for your kids to have this as well. If your siblings can help out with this role, that’s great. If not, find other adults who can become great friends and support for you and your kids.

Tell Us:——> What does being an aunt or uncle mean to you?

1. Joyce A. Shriner, “Adult Sibling Relationships,” Ohio State University Fact Sheet, 1999.

2. D. T. Gold, “Sibling Relations in Old Age: A Typology,” The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 1989.

3. V. H. Bedford and D. T. Gold, editors, “Siblings in Late Life: A Neglected Family Relationship,” American Behavioral Scientist, September/October 1989.

4. Caring Relationships, ParentFurther.

5. Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, ParentFurther.

6. Image via Jon_Ovington on Flick’r.

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