It may surprise you to know that children are more likely to become the victims of abuse by a sibling than by any other family member. On the other hand, many brothers and sisters are, at least much of the time, the best of friends. Sibling relationships are some of the most vital early experiences for children that can colour their later abilities to form positive relationships in adult life.
Recent research (Pike, Kretschmer and Dunn, published in British Psychological Society magazine vol 22 no6) has attempted to find out what factors contribute to positive sibling relationships. Various factors were considered, including the age gap between siblings, socio-economic status, single parent families, household crowding and the gender make up of the siblings. Perhaps surprisingly, instead of being hugely affected by socio-economic status, household crowding, single parenting, gender or age gap, the most significant influences on whether or not siblings get on were found to be positive relationships between the adults in the household, and an organised home life. Furthermore, children and adolescents who report positive relationships with their parents also describe their relationships with siblings as good.We must remember that children are not immune from tension between parents and that a more chaotic home environment can put a strain on all family members. So whatever our family structure, living conditions and economic status, the greatest gift we can give our children in teaching them to make positive relationships is actually within all of our means; to show them loving, positive relationships ourselves, and to provide them with a predictable, reasonably ordered home life.