Sibling Rivalry and Baby Jealousy

Anyone who has a sibling or who is the parent of more than one child knows that the saying "fighting like cats and dogs" certainly applies when it comes to brothers and sisters. What parent hasn't had to make various threats and give dire ultimatums in order to quiet the fighting kids in the back seat, grocery store or living room?


Sibling relationships are complex, and often the reason you find your kids fighting or otherwise displaying animosity toward each other is that they are engaged in some form of sibling rivalry.

Common Forms of Rivalry between Siblings

Siblings are highly competitive in nature. Most frequently, siblings compete to prove who is the "best" at a physical activity - who can run the fastest, draw the nicest picture, get to the highest level in a video game, etc.

Although it occurs most commonly between children, sometimes sibling rivalry continues into adulthood. Like forms of sibling rivalry between children, this competitiveness can be healthy, such as challenging one another to raise money and run a charitable marathon, or unhealthy, such as continually trying to "one-up" each other in life's achievements or earn their parents' kudos.

As a parent, it's especially important for you to do all you can to nurture a positive relationship between your kids while they are young, to reassure them that they are equally loved by you and to ensure that their competitiveness is built on mutual respect and not on trying to raise their own self-esteem at the expense of their brother's or sister's.

Fostering a New Sibling Relationship

The most common and intense instance of a sibling competing for their parents' attention is that which a previously only child experiences when a new baby sister or brother joins the family. Suddenly, the older child is not the sole receiver of their parents' attention and affection; they now have to compete with the baby for it, and to share it. And as if that weren't difficult enough, in many cases they are not even old enough yet to fully grasp the concept of sharing.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can nip this baby jealousy in the bud. If you take steps, beginning during your pregnancy, to help your child adjust, you can minimize the chance that they will resist the changes or feel resentment toward you or their new sibling.