Sibling Rivalry : A Never-ending Chemistry Experiment

By | June 9, 2016

Brotherly love might be shorthand for the city of Philadelphia, but in the world of psychoanalysis, the contrast to that is a much more fascinating aspect to explore. Sibling rivalry (which can also include sisters) is indeed something that may never come about or can lead to decades worth of estrangement between individuals connected by DNA.

Psychoanalyst Patrick Mahony says that the Biblical story of Cain and Abel was the first representation of this phenomenon. However, he knows that a true exploration of the issue’s roots didn’t come until Sigmund Freud arrived on the scene, having taken an intensive look at the legendary writings put forth by Freud.

Patrick Mahony - Sibling Rivalry

Freud, who believed that sibling rivalry was connected to the Oedipus complex, didn’t coin the term (that was David Levy), but he built the framework for study. Those subsequent explorations sought to determine the core reasons why such competition becomes a part of many family’s lives.

This conflict almost always begins with the birth of the younger child, since more of the mother’s focus is required. That perceived slight will usually fade as the younger child becomes more independent, but the likelihood of problems tends to dissipate when there’s a wider age difference between the siblings. In such cases, the elder sibling tends to adopt a more paternal (or maternal) approach to the relationship.

However, when the rivalry begins, it may pertain to the differing talents that favor one over the other. This could be of an athletic nature or more artistic, but the bottom line is that resentment is fuelled by a greater focus on one sibling. This can be from family members, friends or the general public at large.

Patrick Mahony has heard parents discuss the reasoning behind selective treatment of their different children. Some reasons stem from ages of a particular child and from personality differences that may require more interaction with those prone to inhibited character aspects.

The possibility of a sibling rivalry developing will usually end after adolescence due to bonding that will inevitably take place. Still, parental decisions with regard to economic factors or secrets that later emerge have the potential to inflame an otherwise cordial sibling relationship.

Rivalry can fuel many conflicts, but when blood is what makes up that fuel, Patrick Mahony has found that all bets tend to be off when determining what happens next.