Are you entangled in a stressful
relationship or painful emotions with a sibling?
Do you suffer from childhood anger or fear associated with a
brother or a sister?
We help people untangle negative emotions and improve difficult relationships.
Sibling Rivalry & Family Chaos
The existence of siblings
(living, dead, aborted or missing), vanishing twins
and parental behavior create complex patterns of family dynamics.
(If two families with children
merge - everything I mention here will
likely be more complicated - see
If you feel strong emotions
as you read this, especially if you have
with your family, consider asking us for help.
Children seem to cope better with growing up if they feel loved by and loyal
to both parents. We find that if, for whatever reasons, the parents cannot encourage their
children's maturity, both the parents and their children may suffer ongoing stress; and the children of such families are likely to consider
chronic stress to be normal.
During childhood, single children often live primarily in adult worlds.
If their parents have a healthy partnership, single children usually learn how
to behave and how to entertain themselves. They tend to be mature and creative,
although they may not relate well with other children of their own age. Later,
as young adults, they may relate better to mature adults than other children who
grew up with siblings.
If a single child has immature parents, one parent - often the
opposite sex parent - may inappropriately bond to the child, creating
lasting confusion - see covert
emotional incest. Many years ago, Alfred Adler predicted the
consequences of both parents spoiling their only child:
“The only child ... becomes dependent,
always waiting for someone to show him the way, and searching for support.
Indulged throughout his life, he is unused to difficulties, because
someone has smoothed his path for him. Being constantly the centre of
attention he easily acquires the feeling that he is valuable. ...
He is almost certain to pick up misconceptions about life."
Alfred Adler 1927
Single children of lonely or depressed parents may
discover that they can influence their parents' moods and behavior,
and they may try to 'parent' their parents. Such children may assume
burdens of responsibility for maintaining their parents' moods;
burdens that they may never put down ... burdens that immature parents
may encourage ... burdens that may crush the children.
Single children of doting parents may not learn how to
deal with ordinary animosity, injustice and conflict until adulthood. They
may withdraw from difficult situations and comply with more assertive
children. Healthier children can compete or
fight for their possessions or values – without having to bully or hurt other children.
Lonely children with dead or missing siblings
(through adoption, abortion, etc) may feel that someone
important is missing, and invent phantom friends to compensate for
missing siblings. Later in life they may suffer endless negative emotions.
First children often carry the most responsibility of
all siblings. If a first child dies or is weak, this responsibility
may be taken by the next child. If the eldest child was male, and
the next is female - the girl may spontaneously show tomboy
behavior, as she attempts to compensate for her missing or weak older brother.
I always saw my older brother
as weak. During our sessions I realized that I tried to take his place.
I parented him, and I tried to be the strong son that our father wanted.
Now, with three divorces and your coaching, I can finally be
who I am - a woman. Denver
If the parents want a first child to be a
boy, a first girl-child may feel under pressure to be boy-like, and
become a tomboy. If parents want a girl, but have a boy, such children, as adults, may have difficulty defining their sexual
My parents wanted a son and then a
daughter. As their second son, I always felt that
I was a mistake ... they
seemed to want me to be delicate and passive ...
my older brother became macho and I became introverted. We are still that way.
First children who were treated as special
may feel distress if other people do not recognize their
special-ness. This seems to prevent many first children from seeking help. Why
should they change? They are special! (They may believe that they cannot
benefit from help designed for ordinary people.)
As adults, favored children may be unable to change their parental bonds and develop the maturity required for
They may get lost in fixations, addictions or affairs
as they search for substitutes for happiness.
Brothers and Sisters
In families with more than one child, conflicts between
siblings are common, and can persist into adult life. The first two children
are often have quite different personalities - the first and second-born
children may seem to identify with one or the other parents (and
parental expectations) and act out their parent's conflicts.
Third and subsequent children often appear to have more emotional freedom.
resolve their conflicts, transferences and entanglements,
some of their
children's issues seem to magically disappear.
This may be most obvious
when children have learning problems.
If an immature parent tries to live vicariously
through the life of a child, that child risks
becoming a child star. Nothing the siblings do may seem to be good
enough. The child star may try and fail to carry the responsibilities of
an immature or missing parent, so he or she may emotionally burn out and
become a scapegoat for family problems.
Stressed children may feel highly motivated
to leave home - to leave the town or even the country, with little motivation
to return. As adults, these people may say, "I would get sick /
go crazy if I returned!"
After her divorce, my mother
married a man with four children, which meant eight children in a small
house. I began hitch-hiking around the country when I was 14, and left
home forever when I was 17. I had no home but I couldn't stay in my parents' house.
Siblings who suffered a lack of parental
attention may strive to gain the full attention of their parents, something that
a first child, a child star or sick child may experience.
The youngest children may carry least responsibility
in family systems, and be the most fun-loving. Sometimes a father may perceive
the youngest daughter as his Little Princess
- and enjoy her immature love. A male youngest child may gain his parent's attention
by remaining childish and immature.
The middle children of families are often less
competitive - the parents don't give as much time to each child and
so most middle children learn to cooperate.
They are less likely to carry the terrible burden of feeling special
or wanting special treatment.
My older brother acted like a king and my younger brother acted like a baby.
They both expected me to
look after them! I just wanted to be a sister!
My parents didn't know what to do.
I left home as soon as I could.
parents solve relationship and emotional problems with their children.
Sibling Rivalry & Family Chaos 2
Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
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Martyn Carruthers 2008-2018
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