With over eight years of writing and researching experience, Grace specializes in debunking commonly held myths about family psychology.
1. Birth Order Influences
2. PARENTAL FAVORITISM ISSUES
3. VARYING ACHIEVEMENT/ATTAINMENT LEVELS
The NEVERENDING Saga
It is quite usual for children in multichild families to envy each other for one reason or another. After all,they are all vying for parental attention financially, emotionally, and/or psychologically. Siblings tend to display varying levels of animosity to those who they feel receive the most preferential parental treatment for whatever reason. It is believed that this sibling envy would cease once siblings become adults. However, this is not necessarily the case. In many cases, adult sibling envy escalate instead of decreasing.
There are many reasons why adult siblings are envious of each other. Here are THREE MAIN reasons why adult siblings are often envious of one another:
1. BIRTH ORDER
The contention among siblings is that some of them were treated either differentially or preferentially by parents based upon their respective birth orders. Adult oldest siblings envy how leniently their younger siblings were treated by parents as children and adolescents. They know that they were the ones whom parents treated the most harshly. They were also held to higher and stricter expectations whereas younger siblings were given more leeway as far as expectations go.
Adult oldest siblings were pressured as children and adolescents to be the standard bearers and example setters for the younger siblings. They felt as if they had to be always on the familial stage 24/7/365. They saw how their younger siblings were never under this intense pressure. To them, younger siblings could make all the mistakes and NOTHING was ever said to them. On the contrary, if they as oldest children made mistakes, all hell would break loose. After all, it was surmised as oldest siblings, they OUGHT to know better. They strongly resented that they had to be almost perfect as children while others in the family were permitted to be imperfect.
Adult oldest siblings envy how younger siblings had prolonged childhoods and adolescents whereas they had to become adults and assume adult responsibilities early in life. Many resent the onerous responsibilities thrust upon them while they were still children. They see their younger siblings having the childhoods they never had. They were always the family be there person while younger siblings had that responsibility. They resent that younger siblings never had to make the sacrifices they did. They contend that they had to give up their childhoods while younger siblings were NEVER asked to do so.
Adult oldest siblings contend that younger siblings received more parental attention and love than they did. Parents did not love them as much in their eyes. They felt discarded, tossed aside in favor of the younger siblings. They also felt that they were valuable only if they serve the purpose of parents and/or younger siblings. Many parents feel that their oldest children do not need them as much as the younger ones. Some oldest children were strongly rebuked by parents if they even showed physical affection to them. They were told that they were "too big" for "such babying." They saw the younger siblings being hugged, wishing that this were them.
Adult oldest siblings observe how younger siblings were granted better opportunities and/or avenues whereas they always had to prove themselves and/or make their own way in life. In many families, oldest siblings are the ones who perhaps had to work as children and/or adolescents in order to get what they wanted or they did without. They saw how younger siblings did not have to work for such, often getting what they wanted. In their eyes, younger siblings seem to coast along in life and they are accepted. They always had to work the hardest just merely to be accepted and/or approved by parents.
Adult middle siblings envy the fact that older and younger siblings were always recognized and/or included in the family while they were excluded. At least, it felt that way in their estimation. They see themselves as outsides and/or strangers among their siblings. They believe that their older and/or younger siblings always see them as interlopers, nothing more, nothing less.
Adult middle siblings often resent their older and younger siblings because the latter received more parental time and attention than they did. Besides siblings leaving them out, parents often left them left. They feel as they are second or third class citizens at best. Many wonder why were they born if they were going to be subjected to this type of treatment. They hated how they were constantly competing for parental attention and oftentimes getting the short end of the stick.
Adult middle siblings saw how older and/or younger siblings were recognized for their individual and unique personas and contributions. They were/ are/ will be always considered as the appendages of either older and/or younger siblings but NEVER themselves. They are JUST THERE in the eyes of their families.
Adult middle siblings envy how older siblings are lionized, adulated, respected, and idolized by parents. They believe that no matter what they do and how much they achieve, it was/is considered to be old news. They further assert that younger siblings received the preferential or indulgent treatment that they did not receive. They felt cast and tossed aside as younger siblings have usurped their place in the sun.
Adult youngest siblings envy the older siblings' respect and/or leadership role in the family. They feel as if they are on the bottom of the familial totem pole. They see how they were/are always bossed and/or pushed around. To them, older siblings seem to be always masters of their own particular fate. They also observed how older siblings had more freedoms and privileges. To them, older siblings had the glorified status in the family.
Adult youngest siblings hated being at the nadir of the sibling pecking order. They seem to always told what, when, where, and/or if to do. They were treated as if they had no minds and/or opinions of their own. They saw how older siblings can say or do what they want and please. They were pressured in one way or another to go along with the older siblings' particular construct and/or consensus. They view themselves as powerless and/or at the mercy of their older siblings. Some youngest siblings sense being emotionally and/or psychologically suffocated by their older siblings. They maintain that they always have to ask for permission to do and say anything, never being able to their voice heard without derision on the part of their older siblings.
Adult youngest siblings dislike that older siblings are for the the most part taken seriously and/or validated whereas they are not. They, as youngest siblings, know that they will be always disrespected and/or diminished. They view anything they do to be quite inconsequential, insignificant, and/or totally discounted as older siblings have been there and done that. They contend that no matter how old they become, they will always be seen as THE BABY, nothing else. Even if they become/are presidents, chairpersons, CEOs, and/or in any responsible position, they are only known as little so-and-so to their families.
2. PARENTAL FAVORITISM
Favoritism affects each child in the family differently. Favoritism often leaves an impact upon each sibling either positively or negatively that often continues throughout adulthood. Adult unfavored siblings envy favored siblings because the latter had privileges that they did not. To them, favored siblings were loved and given more attention than they were. They view favored siblings been given unlimited or least more opportunities they were even given. In their eyes, favored siblings were given positive reinforcement. They contend that the favored siblings were the golden ones in the family. They were given ONLY THE BEST while they were given THE CRUMBS.
Adult unfavored siblings saw favored siblings been given access to parental time. They observed how favored siblings were given more individualized parental time and attention. They oftentimes received sufficient parental attention, if that. They noticed how parents seem to enjoy being with favored siblings, treating them with consideration and the utmost respect. Everything that the favored siblings say and/or do is applauded by parents.
Adult unfavored siblings see favored siblings as being on more friendly terms with parents while they had at most cordial parent-child relationships. They felt that favored siblings could get away with almost anything as they did no wrong in parental eyes. They see how favored siblings oftentimes received more lenient treatment for things they were chastised, punished, and/or disciplined for. They know in parental eyes favored siblings are next to God and did no wrong.
To adult unfavored siblings, favored siblings were often in the parental inner circle. They consider favored siblings to have private access to information that they and the rest of the family were not privy to. While favored siblings were in the parental inner circle, they were often on the parental periphery at best. Oftentimes, they were considered to be outsiders or personae non gratae. They know that favored siblings were often groomed for certain positions and responsibilities that they would never have. They are cognizant of the fact that favored siblings were considered to be smarter, superior, and more capable than they were or will ever be by parents.
Adult favored siblings envy unfavored siblings as they did not have expectations placed upon them. They believe that unfavored siblings are not held to as strict standards as they are. They view unfavored siblings as having more freedom and/or leeway regarding their behavior than they do. They see how unfavored siblings are free to create their own individual life paths and/or go to their own ways.
Adult favored siblings contend that unfavored siblings are not under any obligation as they are. Remember, the adage when much is given, much is expected. They siblings are given much and much is expected of them. After all, parents proclaim look what WE'VE done for YOU. They view unfavored siblings as being lucky not to have obligations thrust upon them. The latter are freer to come and go as they please. come and go as they please.
Adult favored siblings see unfavored siblings are not being encumbered in certain roles. They believe that unfavored siblings are freer to be themselves. However, THEY cannot as if they do, they may fall out of parental favor. They know that parental favoritism comes with a VERY HIGH price, they must subvert their true identity, beliefs, and/or aspirations to be on the parental good side. They see such parental favoritism coming with conditions which unfavored siblings are free of.
Adult favored siblings assert how unfavored siblings are stronger and more resilient psychologically than they would ever be. They see the courage that unfavored siblings routinely demonstrate for what they must endure at the hands of parents. They indicated that this takes a certain strength of character that they oftentimes do not possess. They further notice how unfavored siblings do and/or say things that they are afraid to because of fear of parental disapproval. To them, unfavored siblings are more respected by other family members for who they are and/or stand for than they will ever be.
3. VARYING ACHIEVEMENT LEVELS
Oftentimes, differing achievement levels are a source of envy and/or other forms of discord among siblings. Adult less successful siblings oftentimes envy more successful siblings for the opportunities they were afforded. They see those siblings as having vaster and wider opportunities, especially educationally, as children. They view more successful siblings as having luckier breaks while they either had little or no such breaks. They perceive more successful siblings as being smarter and/or luckier than they were. To them, more successful siblings continue to have the odds in their favor.
Adult less successful siblings contend that more successful siblings believe that they are better by virtue of their success and/or education. They believe that they are inferior in the eyes of more successful siblings. They perceive that more successful siblings as barely tolerating them as they are not on the latter's socioeconomic and/or educational level so to speak. They also consider more successful siblings to be snobby, arrogant, and forgetting where they came from. Some less successful siblings believe that more successful siblings have sold out in order to reach their particular level of success.
Adult less successful siblings envy more successful siblings for the socioeconomic lifestyle the latter is living. They also perceive more successful siblings as having an easier life. They see the latter having more socioeconomic choices than they do. To them, more successful siblings have more choices moneywise, with unlimited disposable income while they are struggling to make ends meet, if they are lucky. They further contend that more successful siblings have IT made in more ways than one. They contend that more successful siblings NEVER have to worry about meeting their socioeconomic needs ever.
Adult more successful siblings envy less successful siblings as having the time to enjoy life. They find that less successful siblings do not have constantly working long hours in order to retain a pressurized lifestyle. They marvel how less successful siblings are not driven by the incessant need to always be on top. To them, less successful siblings know how to fully enjoy themselves and their families. They see less successful siblings as having a more leisurely paced life.
Adult more successful siblings see how free of material anxieties less successful siblings are. They also view them as being unencumbered by job stress and/or related responsibilities, especially if they are not in a high powered position. They maintain that less successful siblings can leave their jobs after a few hours, go home and forget about the job until the next day. They, on the contrary, sometimes have to work late into the night in order to finish their assignments. They oftentimes cannot forget their jobs once they are home, particularly if it is a responsible position. They can be on call 24/7.
Adult more successful siblings notice how less successful siblings placed their priorities on more important things such as friends, family, and other non-material things. They see how less successful siblings refuse to stress out over what the latter considers to be mere material things. To the latter, material things are temporary, they come and go. There are more lasting things in the latter's minds. Adult more successful siblings can be stressed over success and its accoutrements. They worked long and hard to attain their level of success and are terrified of losing it. This can cause them undue physical and/or psychological stress. However, those things are the last thing on the minds of less successful siblings. They contend that less successful siblings live and enjoy life in the present for the future is uncertain and not promised to anyone.
In conclusion, the sibling relationship is an intricate and complex one. It is quite natural that siblings are going to compete with each other. That is an integral part of sibling relationships and development. Siblings also are bound to exhibit feelings of jealousy towards each other from time to time. However, this jealousy should not be excessive and damaging to the integrity of the sibling relationship. Each sibling has different gifts and talents that is to be respected. Also each sibling is unique yet equal and parents should realize this and act accordingly. Sibling jealously, if left unchecked and not corrected, can continue throughout adulthood, dividing siblings, sometimes forever.
© 2013 Grace Marguerite Williams
Telenovela on March 26, 2016:
I disagree. Younger children have it worse. I didn't even have boundaries to change clothes in private until I was about twent because I was "just a baby". How wiuld you like every statement that you make to be fact checked because "you're a baby" - at 25 years old?
I think that I was the favorite child until I was five. After that, my older sister was sure to put a stop to that! She made messes and blamed them on me for me to be punished. Lied, stole, you name it, and blamed it on me until my credibility was ruined. Now, my parents think that she's an angel and accuse me of emotionally abusing her! This was also her doing because she would cry whenever I tried to expose her lies and then they would say "stop hurting your sister".
Now, I'm the "evil baby whose sister is afraid of her" because my sister puts on a fragile front in front of everyone else and even dodges when I'm near her and I've never hit her! In fact, she's hit me before! This front allows her to tailgate me, pretend to be me when I'm not around, and steal my identity, but she's "so afraid that I will hurt her".
Being the youngest is horrible!
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on November 15, 2015:
rahul from India on November 15, 2015:
parent favor and different level treatment is main reason why sibling envy each other.
Sadie on February 14, 2015:
I just wrote on why I hate my sibling. It's not even so much hate thoguh as the need to keep myself removed from a very toxic, and damaged person. I can hate him, but I don't have the energy to. I can be civil, and choose to avoid him as an adult, as that has been the best thing for me.
cake on August 09, 2014:
I disagree about the youngest child having it easy. Im the youngest and I had to work for every scrap of affection from my parents while my older brother did nothing and they worship him. My dad has found him every job he has had in the last 12 years, they pay for his college (he is in his 30s and fails either all of his classes or most of them), and my mother takes him shopping and buys him clothes. He isn't mentally handicaped, im the one who has suffered from depression most my life, he just has no desire to work since he knows the will give him money whenever he wants
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on June 17, 2014:
UNDERSTAND Jessie, UNDERSTAND THOROUGHLY. Youngest children have IT MADE in the SHADE. Of course, they do no wrong in their parents' eyes because they're the baby, the jewel, the precious one in the family. They get away with things that oldest children would/are CRUCIFIED for. Get my drift. Also youngest children tend to be parental FAVORITES. In many families, youngest children coast along and have privileges whereas oldest children have TO WORK for what they get. Again, get the picture? Understand your situation very thoroughly. In multichild families, the youngest are the kings/queens and the adored ones while the others are.....JUST THERE.
Jessie on June 17, 2014:
This whole page described every reason why I have a certain amount of animosity toward my sister. She's the youngest. She does no wrong in my parents' eyes. They think she's perfect. And she's so successful whereas I'm having my hours cut at work, so I'm barely making enough to put gas in the car. I don't want to say I hate her, but sometimes I really dislike her!
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on September 24, 2013:
Again, THANK YOU for stopping by and for you again eloquent response.
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 24, 2013:
The photos alone are priceless. Great selection there. If my sister were talking to me right now, I'd send this hub to her, hahaha. But she's not. My brother is though. I liked your observations. I'm the oldest, by the way.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on July 04, 2013:
Thank you for your response and encouragement!
CarolineVABC from Castaic on July 04, 2013:
What an excellent hub regarding adult sibling rivalry! I belong to a family of ten, which I am the eighth child. I was sickly growing up and got lots of attention that way. As I got older, I started to outgrow my illness and so I was expected to deal with more responsibilities. It was a bit overwhelming at first since I was very sheltered and everyone tried to be overprotective of me, sometimes even my two younger siblings, especially the ninth child, were more self-assured and treated me like a 'fragile' sibling.
The reasons that you've enumerated here were outstanding: birth order, parental favoritism issues, and varying achievement/attainment levels. In my family, there are other issues: who has the greatest talent (especially singing), the most successful spouse and/or kids (best grades), the most good-looking kids or the adult siblings themselves, and of course the ones that you've mentioned here also play a part. I believe the parental favoritism (while our parents were still living-especially with our dearest mother), and the varying attainment/achievement levels.
I agree with you that sibling rivalry, for the most part, continue on in adulthood, and could get worse not better; however, sibling rivalry is a part of growing up and is natural especially in larger families. Albeit, an excessive amount of it can be unhealthy and damaging to familial relationships. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom, gmwilliams! It was great to see all of the arguments and how each adult sibling see each other and feel towards one another. This is very enlightening and such a thought provoking hub! Keep at it and may God bless your writing journey even more!