The Dark Underside of Having Siblings
THE UNMENTIONABLE TABOO
BIRTH ORDER AND THE DARK SIDE OF SIBLINGSHIP
FAVORITISM'S ROLE IN THE DARK SIDE OF SIBLINGSHIP
THE ROLE OF BEING UNFAVORED IN THE DARK SIDE OF SIBLINGSHIP
THERE IS EVEN A DARKER SIDE........REGARDING THE SIBLING SCENARIO
AFTEREFFECTS OF SIBLING MINDGAMES AND UPMANSHIP
More Tales of the Darkside From the World of Siblingship
There are more recent studies authenticating that children who have siblings have issues that only children do not have. The studies confirm that children with siblings suffer from more psychological issues such as having a lower sense of self and other self-esteem issues which was the result of competing for parental attention. Furthermore, children with siblings are subjected to sibling bantering and teasing which also adversely affect their self-image.
In other words, siblings equal family drama. This is because when there are more than one child in the same household, children learn ways to gain parental favor. The more children, the more intense the vying for parental resources whether it is physical, emotional, intellectual, and financial. This is why in multichild families, there is always sibling rivalry which is a fact of life.
There is no multichild family in which there is no sibling rivalry. Siblings constantly compete with each other for parental resources. This is quite normal behavior. Study the animal kingdom-notice what occurs when animals have more than one offspring. Yes, you guessed it- the little cubs or puppies are fighting for the affection of the parent. Well, human behavior in multichild families is duplicating such animal behavior.
Sibling rivalry begins upon the birth of the second child. Social scientists and educators such as Susan Newman, Ph.D. and Ellen Peck, authors, maintain that when a succedent sibling is born into a family, the older children often feel alienated and abandoned. In other words, they feel dethroned and unwanted. Oftentimes, the oldest child often revert to more childish and/or infantile behaviors such as baby talk, bedwetting, and soiling in order to garner parental attention.
Dr. Newman further elaborated that most children are extremely wary of their new sibling. This is because many older children view their new sibling or siblings as threats to their familial status. Oldest children were only children once and the center of parental attention. Then, presto, a succedent sibling arrives and the first child becomes dethroned. The new sibling now needs the parents' attention. So the oldest child often becomes resentful of the new arrival and views him/her as an intruder.
In several biographies of Princess Grace a/k/a Grace Kelly, she reported that her oldest child, Princess Caroline was so jealous of her brother, Prince Albert, that she would bite him. Also, it was further reported that upon the birth of the youngest child, Princess Stephanie, Princess Caroline attempted to flush her sister down the toilet, saying that she did not want her. Many oldest children, in fact, detest the arrival of a new sibling and have done many things to show their displeasure. One noted creative writer of COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE reported leaving her newborn brother on a curb, hoping that someone would take him away.
Many oldest children believe that upon the birth of a succedent sibling or sibling that they are not as good as the new arrival/arrivals. In fact, they feel inadequate and believe that they were not enough for their parents. According to research done at Montpelier University, oldest children are more selfish than their younger siblings. This is because with the birth of a successive sibling/siblings, they became vary of parental love and of relationships. They often believe that they are on shaky grounds regarding their parents and feel cast aside. This makes many oldest children distrustful and uneasy in relationships. They also have a high sense of parental abandonment.
Many oldest children because they believe that they were displaced, develop the overachiever and the good sibling mentality in order to obtain parental attention. Some oldest children mask their resentment of younger siblings by exercising upmanship with their younger sibling/siblings. This upmanship includes behaviors from teasing to actual bullying. In a biography of a highly successful corporate executive who was the oldest of seven children, he would remark to constantly playing mindgames on them and making them do errands and clean his room. Oldest children are quite adept of the adage that might makes right. They have learned to use power play regarding their younger siblings.
However, there are oldest children who pretend that nothing is wrong and adopt the persona of the responsible and altruistic older sibling. These oldest children play the good oldest child by putting their sibling needs before theirs. This often results in parents taking the oldest sibling for granted and the younger siblings taking advantage of their kindness. They often learn since their perception of being abandoned, never to voice their needs and wants ever again. They feel as if they are second best in their families and that their younger sibling/siblings are more important than they are.
In order for them to feel important, they become the perfect child. That is they will outdo everyone in the family in order to feel that they are important in their parents' eyes. They become the prototypical overachiever. They begin to equate doing and accomplishments as an index to their humaneness. Their motto is that since they are not good enough, they will be better than everyone else just to get noticed and appreciated. Their cry is, " Look at me, damn it!"
Now, with the correlation of succedent children in the family, there is a prevalence of such variables such as favoritism, scapegoating, differential, and preferential treatment of family members based upon parental preference. The larger the families, the more likelihood that there will be unequal treatment of siblings. There is NO parent or parents, no matter the saying that all children in the household are loved and cared for equally, practice this. In fact, subconsciously parents have THEIR preferences as to what sibling will receive the golden glove treatment and what sibling will be a persona non grata. Please do not tsk tsk or pooh pooh me, stating oh no how untrue, untrue. Well, it is so true.
Joseph Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy clan, favored his oldest son, Joseph Kennedy II. Mr. Kennedy pinned all hopes that his eldest son be the first Irish Catholic president of the United States. Joseph Jr. was viewed as the golden boy in the Kennedy clan. He was handsome, extremely bright, and an all around person. Furthermore, in the eyes of Mr. Kennedy, Joseph Jr. could do no wrong. All of Mr. Kennedy's hopes were pinned upon his oldest son.
During World War II, Joseph II became a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, he was killed while in battle. Of course, Mr. Kennedy was distraught and decided that his second son, John, would take Joseph Jr's place to become the first Irish Catholic president. John was somewhat the less favored son; however, Mr. Kennedy believed that since John was next in line, he decided to groom his second son for the position.
There are many such children who are the golden children in the family. Golden children, even more than favored child, get the best from the parent. They receive the best clothing, care, parental time, and education. They often get away with things that other siblings would be punished and disciplined for. In other words, they can do NO WRONG in parental eyes. The golden child in the family often exhibit characteristics which separates them from other family members rather it is striking good looks, prodigious talents, intellectual giftedness/acumen, unusual athletic ability and other related variables.
The golden sibling is often considered a jewel and a precious entity by the parents. More money is usually spent to him/her much to the neglect of the other children in the family. Because of the intensely preferential treatment that the golden sibling receives from the parents, he/she develops a superior attitude and a sense of entitlement.
Of course, there is a sibling or siblings who are the object of parental favoritism because of variables which include birth order status, similar parent/child characteristics and psychology, and the child's innate personality among other factors. Favored children are usually treated more preferentially than other children. They often get more parental attention and favors than their other siblings. They are often punished less for offenses that their siblings would be severely punished for. Like the golden sibling, the favored sibling also has the halo effect i.e. they are viewed more positively by their parents than the other children in their families,
Both golden and favored children curry the resentment, hatred, and envy of their less favored siblings. An example of this is Joseph in THE BIBLE. He was the eleventh son out of twelve children whose father is Jacob. Jacob saw qualities in Joseph that he did not see in his other eleven children. So! So you asked- now what happened? You guessed it- Joseph was the special, golden child whom Jacob favored above the others. Well, the other eleven brothers, especially the few oldest brothers, did not take kindly to this at all. By brotherly consensus, they elected to sell the special golden sibling into slavery in Egypt!
The abovementioned example is an extreme of course. However, this is a perfect illustration of what happens in multichild families when favoritism and special status to granted to a sibling or siblings over other siblings. While the favorite and/or golden child feels loved, adored, and pampered by the parents, the other siblings suffer. The latter often feel as they are persona non grata or worse, invisible. As in the story of Joseph, they display their resentment towards the favored and/or golden sibling either verbally or physically. Often the less favored and/or ignored sibling often develops low self-esteem and other negative behavioral issues. Oftentimes, many siblings develop a schism between them which lasts for a lifetime because of favoritism, preferential treatment, and special status conferred upon a particular sibling/siblings over others.
As I have said-where are siblings, there is drama! Then there is the scapegoat sibling. In multichild families, there are children, who for one reason or another, are objects of parental disfavor and abuse. Maybe this child was an unwanted child , possess characteristics which are vastly different from their familial culture, have a different personality than the parents, and/or who just stands out for whatever reason.
Siblings who are scapegoated are treated WORST by their parents. They are often held to a stricter standard than the other members in the family. They receive the worst of everything whether it is clothing, privileges, education, and/or other types of care. They are often punished more punitively and harsher for offenses that other siblings are merely reprimanded for. Some scapegoated siblings are actually HATED by their parents.
Scapegoated children are more likely to be ignored, neglected, and abused by their parents than their other siblings. Even though scapegoated children occurs in all family sizes, it is more prevalent in medium large to very large families where there is greater parental stress because emotional, physical, and financial resources are S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D to the limit. In such families, children are CONSTANTLY competing for what few resources parents have. Furthermore, the larger the family, the more chaos and psychological stress there is as it is IMPOSSIBLE for parents to equally devote and divide their resources among their large number of children. Children in medium large to very large families are often viewed as obligations to be undertaken instead of joyous creations. As a result of this, there are some children in such families who are viewed as more burdensome than others and are thus scapegoated.
This is a familial atmosphere regarding scapegoated children which is analogous to the concept of constructive discharge. Let me first define constructive discharge. In the work environment if the supervisor and/or superior does not like the employee for whatever reason, he/she can make the working environment so infernal for the employee that he/she is left with no other discourse but to resign his/her employment. I shall apply the same principle to the familial environment to the scapegoated child/sibling. Some parents view their children as so burdensome and onerous that they create an environment of living hell for the scapegoated sibling/siblings that they are forced to leave home earlier than they wish to.
There are some parents who view their children, not as joys but as mouths to feed and support. Many parents especially in larger families, voice that they cannot wait until their children reach eighteen and move out of the house so they can have more freedom and less mouths to feed and support. Many scapegoated children are often throwaway children with nowhere to go but to the streets. They are simply not wanted by their parents who have too many children to support, Still other scapegoated children are simply pushed out of the parental home or told to simply leave.
Then there is the unfavored sibling who is not as badly treated as the scapegoated sibling. Unfavored siblings are disliked by parents because they often have different characteristics than the parent or sometimes they may have the same characteristics of the parent which he/she does not wish to acknowledge, and the parent may have an deepseated animus against the child for some unknown reason.
Unfavored children as scapegoated children are often in a precarious situation. They are also on the short end of the parental receiving stick. They are too held to a different standard than their favored sibling. They are disciplined and reprimanded for behaviors that their more favored and/or other siblings are allowed to get away with. The situation of the unfavored sibling/siblings in the family can range from the lower purgatorial to slightly hellish. Unfavored siblings have little or no sense of self as it is constantly being invalidated by parental figures. They often spend the LEAST time with their parents as their parents often find excuses and methodology to avoid interfacing with their unfavored child. They are usually left to their own devices. As with the scapegoated sibling, they are the nonentities and nothings in their families.
Of pertaining to preferential and differential treatment, where there are SIBLINGS, there is the BIRTH ORDER dynamic. In multichild families, there is usually an unequal playing and hierarchical field. Parents clearly do not treat children in multichild families equally. Each child is treated preferentially and/or differentially dependent upon his/her birth order. Some children in multichild families(usually the youngest child) is adored, babied, and indulged while others are treated more harshly and expected to carry the responsibilities( the oldest child), and yet still others are ignored and overlooked (you guessed it-the middle child).
Such family dynamics often have long lasting effects on the children involved. Many oldest children hate and resent their younger siblings for privileges and more indulgent treatment that they received. They believe that they are the unpaid and unappreciated servants in their families. Oldest children, especially in medium large to very large families, are often the UNHAPPIEST of all birth orders. Of course, they are pressured to be adults and responsible from a very early age. They are not allowed by their parents to enjoy a decent and reasonable childhood but must spend it caring for their younger siblings.
Forget about middle children. They are used to being ignored and anonymous by their family members. They often accept it as a fact of life. However, there are some middle children who rebel against being overlooked by parents and older siblings. They often become aggressive towards their siblings in a bid to be noticed and respected. Middle children are the second unhappiest of all birth orders.
The youngest child received the golden gloves in any family, especially medium large to very large. Of course, they are happy because they have the LEAST familial responsibilities. Life is a golden palace for the youngest child. They are often the favorites in many families. However, they are more likely to be bullied by other siblings who often resent the former's privileged and pampered familial status.
In multichild families, because there is intense competition for parental attention and favor, there is often a lot of infighting and gamemanship practiced among siblings. Murray Straus, Ph.D., author of the book BEHIND CLOSED DOORS; VIOLENCE IN THE AMERICAN FAMILY, clarified that in multichild families, it is rife that sibling abuse occurs. Dr. Straus maintained that 74% of children in multichild families abuse each other. Further sociological and psychological studies concur that 42% of siblings kick, punch, and bite each other. Those studies further maintained that if verbal abuse is involved, then 85% of siblings regularly verbally abuse each other. Since sibling abuse, verbal and other, is commonplace in multichild families, the long lasting effects of such actions are damaging to the child's self esteem and sense of self.
Such sibling rivalry does not end in adolescence. In fact, sibling upmanship, competition, and rivalry often last throughout an entire lifetime. Sibling roles, rifts, and upmanship from childhood and adolescent often continue throughout adulthood. Many siblings have low self-esteem and issues relating to other people because of their sibling experience. Still others receive psychological and psychiatric care because of the abuse they endured from siblings.
Many people live their lives in the shadow of their siblings instead of establishing their own individual lives. Others, especially oldest children, live for their siblings and are afraid to express their own individual wants and needs. While adults who are youngest children in their families expect other older siblings to continuously support them throughout their adult years. Middle children, as adults, often escape from the family and sibling drama, often making their own mark and going their own way(think of Grace Kelly and Madonna).
Then there is the issue of favoritism and scapegoating among adult siblings. Many golden and favored siblings "mature" into selfish, entitled prima donnas and boy wonders who believe that the world revolves around them and people exist to do their bidding. They have an inflated sense of themselves with little or no regard for others. They are often manipulative and will do anything to get their own way even if it hurt others. They further believe that the world owes them something and because they had an easier life, cannot handle stress and hardship.
Unfavored and scapegoated children either are utter failures in life because of a severely damaged self-esteem or they become the family rebels and iconoclasts who have severed ties with their toxic biological family and have found non-related family members who care about who they genuinely are. Many unfavored and scapegoated children have become wildly successful and famous and use their fame and success to help the underdogs of society.
In conclusion, having siblings increases the likelihood of uncooperative and even pathological behaviors in the family. When there is more than one child in the family, children must compete in any way necessary for parental favor. Furthermore, there are documented studies which illustrate the often deleterious effects of siblinghood on children ranging from one child feeling abandoned to preferential and/or differential treatment of children by parents.
Because of the intense competition to curry parental favor, children in multichild families often play mindgames and manipulate each other to see who is the better person. Such mindgames and similar behaviors include verbal and physical abuse which often include punching, name-calling, hitting, kicking, and biting each other. Such combativeness and other adversarial relationships among siblings often have an extremely negative effect upon each sibling's self-esteem and self image.
Sibling competition just does not cease in adolescence. It often continues into adulthood. Many siblings often act out and assume their childhood familial roles because it is safer to play the part. However, there are some siblings who refuse to play their familial roles and carve out unique and individual lives. As illustrated above, blood is not always thicker than water and familiarity can indeed breed contempt!
Books to Read on the Subject
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams
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