Does Birth Order Affect Sibling Rivalry?

Any number of factors can affect sibling rivalry. From things such as the proximity in age of children, to the specific family environment, to things like personality disorders or mental illness, the causes of sibling rivalry are nearly innumerable. Even birth order is thought to affect sibling rivalry to one degree or another.

The first area that birth order affects sibling rivalry is in the area of personality conflicts. Some experts theorize that birth order affects personality in many ways. The oldest child, for example, feels a very different role in a family than the youngest child or the middle child. Each position in the birth order tends to have certain traits, which will often conflict with the traits of a sibling who has another place in the birth order.

Birth order also affects sibling rivalry in the area of parental attention and sibling jealousy. In some cases, an older child may feel that a younger child, especially the youngest child, receives a greater degree of attention, care, and even love than the oldest child. Consequently, a firstborn may feel as though he is given much more responsibility and many fewer privileges than a younger child. The sheer amount of time and energy that a baby requires for its basic physical care, for example, can cause a firstborn child to be very jealous of the time that the baby is given by the parents.

At the same time, children who are born later often may feel as though they don’t have the same rights and privileges of their older siblings. This, too, is a way in which birth order affects sibling rivalry. Younger children may be jealous of the additional privileges that a firstborn child enjoys, due to her older age. It is often difficult for those younger children to recognize that the older sibling not only has extra privileges, but also extra responsibilities.

While birth order doesn’t cause sibling rivalry by itself, the fact of the matter is that it can definitely affect sibling rivalry.

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