Child Behavior and Sibling Relationship Quality


Most children in different families across the world have siblings. Siblings form an integral part of every family, and they enhance their growth. The quality of the sibling relationship may result in either negative or positive impacts on child behavior. There seem to be four major characteristics of such relationships. First, the sibling relationship is emotionally charged. Secondly, their interactions are full of intimacy because they spend much time in plays. Thirdly, it is characterized by various individual differences. Lastly, the age difference is a great factor that may bring further effects. Sibling relationships help in the understanding of others, especially in the emotional, cognitive, and social perspectives. It widens their social understanding and knowing the way they are required to behave as they grow up. Firstborn siblings are charged with the top duty of being on the lead and guiding other siblings in society. In the absence of their parents, they represent mother and father, and their next siblings tend to imitate their actions and what they tell them to do. For example, younger siblings imitate the language of the older ones. Whatever their language or action is, whether positive or negative, there is a likelihood that the other siblings will copy that. The sibling relationship quality and child behavior are influenced by personal characteristics. For example, children have a different temperament, some are easy going, and others are impatient. Their relationship is likely to be determined by the child who is easy going. Sibling relationship, therefore, a natural school where young ones are trained on how to behave and interact with others in society.

Keywords: child, behavior, sibling relationship

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Child Behavior and Sibling Relationship Quality

Sibling relationships may either bring an enhancement or a disruption in harmony within a family as well as in the growth and development of a child. For quite some time now, most parents have termed the conflicts between siblings as being one of the most obvious and continuing problems that they experience in bringing up their children. Oftentimes, in most families, siblings are left to take care of their young ones. One of the main reasons why it happens is many parents do work full-time, and so siblings are left to provide care to their young ones before and after school. The quality of the sibling relationship may impact positively or negatively on a child’s behavior development. If siblings are in constant arguments and fights, the younger ones are negatively affected because they would not have the kind of care they require. It has been proven that the sibling relationship seems to remain unchanged throughout their life. Siblings, who get along well while at their tender age, will have positive relationships. However, those, who started undergoing rivalry, are likely to have distant relationships in their lives later (Howe & Recchia, 2006). Therefore, the quality of the sibling relationship has various impact on behavior development of a child.

Howe and Recchia (2006) say that most of the children worldwide have siblings, and they are seen as an integral part of family systems that play significant roles in child development, especially on their emotional or social behavior. Within the early childhood period, there seem to be four major characteristics of relationships between siblings that are outstanding and very prominent. First of all, the interactions of siblings are regarded as being emotionally charged that are defined by uninhibited and strong emotions that can either be positive or negative (Howe & Recchia, 2006). Secondly, the relationships between siblings are defined with intimacy because the youngsters spend much of their time playing together and knowing one another (Howe & Recchia, 2006). It may give them opportunities for the provision of emotional support for one another. The third one is that sibling relationships are known to have many individual differences in the quality of how children relate with one another. In other words, the compatibility between a child and a sibling is highly dependent and influenced by their individual differences (Pike & Oliver, 2017). Fourthly, the age differences often result is issues of control, power, jealousy, and rivalry among many more. The sibling relationship to the child is one that is often emotional and highly charged because they are still in a state of learning about each other and acknowledging their various differences.

The relationships of siblings give us a significant context for the development of children’s understanding of their emotional, social, cognitive, and moral worlds. Specifically, siblings have an important function to understand the mind of others, that is, their thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and intentions (Howe & Recchia, 2006). When it happens, their social environment is widened while they are still young. Siblings tend to show their understanding of the mind of others during the real-life interactions before they even demonstrate it in formal assessments. Those who are involved in frequent pretend plays show a greater understanding (Pike & Oliver, 2017).

The firstborn siblings do involve themselves in providing care, helping duties, teaching and showing leadership abilities. On the other side, the second born and the next ones are likely to imitate what the older one shows to them (Howe & Recchia, 2006). Thus, in early childhood development, siblings may be a source of support in caretaking situations. However, the natural differences, for example, age, is a piece of normal evidence that children will undergo different experiences as they grow in their family. According to Pike and Oliver (2017), older sibling behaviors have a greater impact on the pro-social behavior of the next siblings. The older ones are always dominant in every family, and they exist to set the pace and establish a good road where the rest will walk in. However, they will only establish a good way if they show positive traits to their younger ones.

To be specific, the personal characteristics of children who are involved in the sibling relationship are very important in getting to know the nature of the relationship they will have. One of them is temperament, which is known to be the kind of behavior that an individual uses when relating to others. Children have different temperaments, some may be easygoing and calm while others may be impatient and are easily upset (Howe & Recchia, 2006). The first ones are likely to have fewer conflicts with their siblings as compared to the impatient ones. This combination will have positive behavior development in one another as they relate. The kind of relationship between the inpatient and easygoing sibling will be greatly determined by the easygoing sibling. The relationship tends to run in a smooth manner when the easygoing one is older because he or she takes charge of the situation when they are with their younger ones (Howe & Recchia, 2006). Therefore, siblings learn many skills as they relate with one another.

To sum up, the sibling relationship is regarded as being a natural laboratory where young children undergo much learning about their new world. It is also a secure and safe school where they learn how to interact with one another. For example, they learn how to manage disagreements and how to regulate their negative and positive emotions. Sibling relations offer young ones with the opportunities of learning and having a greater understanding of the social relations that exist in their families and the society at large.



Howe, N., & Recchia, H. (2006). Sibling relations and their impact on children’s development. In Encyclopedia on early childhood development (pp. 1-8). Department of Education and Centre for Research in Human Development, Concordia University.

Pike, A., & Oliver, B. R. (2017). Child behavior and sibling relationship quality: A cross-lagged analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(2), 250-255.