Adult Sibling Relationships: New Friends or Old Foes?
What does it take to have good sibling relationships in adulthood? How do grown brothers
and/or sisters arrive at a comfortable state of equilibrium, of give and take that
accommodates basic differences and nourishes the seeds of closeness they may share?
Most of us have a few hair-raising stories about our brothers or sisters. Whether they were
the good old days or the bad old days, siblings usually have stories of old conflicts: of
patterns of dominance, rivalries and competition, pain and injury, neglect, and issues of
favoritism – to name a few. As we grow up, conflict areas can become rigid and fixed and
eventually prevent us from seeing one another as we are in the adult contemporary world.
We can be thrown into childish meltdowns and overwhelmed by feelings of rejection and
inferiority when these old issues are brought to the surface.
Siblings often have a unique ability to “push our buttons” in an intense way, perhaps
because of several unique characteristics sibling relationships share. To begin with, they are
usually the longest relationship that an individual is likely to experience in a lifetime. They
include a special segment of shared history that we ordinarily do not have with any others.
Whether the bond is weak or strong, the status of siblings is a permanent one which will
always have influence in our lives.
In studies of siblings, there are a few findings on the subject of closeness that are
consistent across studies. Overall, female siblings tend to be closer to each other than male
siblings, with male/female sibs in between. Younger siblings tend to experience a closer
bond to the older sibling than vice versa. There seems to be a natural phenomenon of
increasing conflict in adolescence and decreasing conflict as we move on in to maturity. Also
later in the life cycle, sibling relationships may be continued or abandoned and lost in a
gradual way rather than as the result of significant interpersonal