Reasons Why Siblings Don’t Get Along

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Perhaps one of the most reassuring things I can tell you is that a healthy, strong, very connected and loyal sibling relationship is rare. So, if you don’t quite get along with one or more of your siblings, you’re just part of the norm. But why? There must be reasons for this common and unfortunate reality, right? Well…

Reasons Siblings Don't Get Along is Common

Why Siblings Don’t Get Along

Reason #1: Parental favoritism.

This happens when parents, maybe unknowingly, give one child more attention than another — which may occur for a variety of reasons:

  • special needs
  • high demands
  • certain talents
  • looks
  • age (the youngest)
  • they’re “perfect”

Both children — the favored or unfavored — could experience certain repercussions.

The favored: might feel pressure to be perfect and, in general, be the recipient of too much attention. Meaning, they never fully develop into their own independent thinker.

The unfavored: might feel things were harder for them and that they didn’t get the attention they needed. Meaning, they may never feel like they’re enough.

Reason #2: The switchboard operator.

This person, often the parent, plays the role of the town gossip, if you will. Like, they’re the hub for family communication — often interfering with problem solving.

They sometimes stir the pot by playing the intermediary and not allowing the siblings to resolve (whatever) conflict directly.

For example, they’ll say, 

  • “Well, this is what she feels.”
  • “Here’s what he’s really saying.”
  • “What she actually means is…”
Why Sibling Don't Get Along Can Be Due to the Switchboard Operator.

Reason #3: Generational.

Bottom line: when parents have their own perceived expectations or experiences when it comes to siblings.

For instance, perhaps the mom and her sister fought like crazy. Or the dad was jealous of his older brother because his mom and dad favored him.

Then, you start to see these same relationships being projected onto their own kids and their sibling relationships.

And what do we do as kids? We live up to (or stoop to the depths of) our parents’ expectations!

Reason #4: Labels.

More often than not, our behaviors and interests were either praised or dismissed (by our parents) based on the role we were given. 

Do any of these ring a bell?

[Mom said] “I’m the…

  • quiet one.”
  • outgoing one.”
  • comedian.”
  • smart one.”
  • shy one.”
  • athletic one.”
  • talented one.”
  • chubby one.”
  • skinny one.”
  • loner.”
  • dork.”
  • forgetful one.”
  • always hungry one.”
  • lazy one.”

When we’re given those roles/labels as children, it’s imperative that, as adults, we grow up and grow out of them.

You’re not the same person you were when you were a child.

And outside of your family, you probably operate in a very different way, anyway. You don’t maintain or live up to those roles in your life today.

But as adult siblings, it can be hard for us not to see — in ourselves and the other sibling(s) — those same labels our parents gave us. 

Hence, even if you’re a very different person than you were when you and your sister shared a bedroom as children, how you relate to each other may very well be determined by those early childhood sibling labels. 

For many more REASONS as to why siblings don’t get along, make sure to check out this episode of The Chalene Show:

And don’t forget to subscribe to TCS for weekly shows dedicated to your overall personal development!

This blog was partially inspired by the writings of Dr. Karen Gail Lewis.


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