The Value of Adult Sibling Relationships

In childhood you may have found your siblings annoying, troublesome and interfering with your sole access to your parents. In adulthood you are more likely to feel blessed by having siblings who share your biology, history and have been a part in cementing your identity.

The innate yearning for sole parental attention, love and caring is prompted by survival instincts. Sharing one’s parents with an additional child feels threatening and unsafe. Thus, older children often exhibit their jealousy by hurting the newborn or attempting to discredit the infant in their quest to reclaim primacy in their parent’s eyes. With time, the oldest child adjusts to the reality of having siblings and may learn to cherish this unique historical bond for life.

The benefits of having siblings become clearer to youngsters as they mature. They may be protected in the school yard by an older brother, comforted by an older sister, helped and taught life skills by both and benefited by emulating them during maturation.

In “The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal about Us”, Jeffrey Kluger stated, “Very broadly, it is true that the skills that children practice again and again in their childhood are taken later to the classroom and to life later on.”

In “Sibling Relationship Across the Life Span” Psychologist Victor Cicirelli highlights the mutual benefits siblings acquire in childhood. He states, “The older sibling gains in social skills by interacting with the younger sibling and the younger sibling gains cognitively by imitating the older.”

Adulthood may afford siblings the opportunity to form closer connection and in later life team up in caring for their aging parents. It is also true that harmonious sibling connections are not always formed, but those who do cultivate the bond, find themselves having a more secure adulthood and face aging with greater ease than those who harbor childhood resentments and lose their familial connection with their siblings.

Genex, a molecular diagnostics company stated, “Each person has DNA in the form of 23 pairs of chromosomes. One chromosome of each pair is inherited from our mother, and the other chromosome of each pair is inherited from our father. If two people are full siblings, statistically, approximately 50% of their genes should be identical.” Accordingly, rejecting your biological sibling is akin to rejecting part of yourself.

Despite the biological commonality with your siblings, the psychological, emotional, and lifestyle choices may vary greatly from your biological brother or sister. Life circumstances, personality styles or decisions made may have distanced you from your siblings. Yet, those who preserve a harmonious and loving bond are enriched for life.

Embrace your siblings:

  • Foster a close relationship with your brothers/sisters. They are genetically, historically and familiarly closest to you.
  • Preserve your unity even if your personalities and lifestyles differ.
  • Discharge old grudges – they only burden you and put a barrier in your love relationships.
  • Care for your parents as a team, which will deeply enrich all of you.

 

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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