- Education and Science»
- Psychology & Psychiatry
Family Melodrama and Histrionics, Part IV
The Intricacies of the Family-The Tangled Web Families Weave
In the previous three hubs on this subject, I have discussed the relationships between parents and children. Now, I shall discuss the intricacies of the sibling relationship. The sibling relationship is such a complex one. Siblings usually love and support each other. The sibling relationships is often one of the more important relationships in families, especially once a person reaches adulthood. For many people, siblings are their main source of interaction and relationship.
While many sibling relationships are quite positive, caring, and supportive ones, there are sibling relationships which can be described as contentional, competitive, and often negative. These siblings are often estranged from each other, often considering each other more as enemies than as friends. Siblings such as those can be quite dangerous and deadly.
Many siblings have often unresolved issues due to parental favoritism and other types of either preferential and/or differential treatment on the parents' part. Some siblings feel privileged and entitled while others believe that they are the black sheep of the family or just worthless. Others contend that because of their birth order position, most of the responsibilities are shouldered upon them while their siblings have little or no responsibilities. The list goes on ad infinitum.
The issues in multichild families are often complex. It is the rare and/or exceptional parents in multichild families who treat all of their children equally, value, and encourage their unique talents. In multichild families, many parents unknowingly treat their children differently and pidgeonhole them into rigid roles e.g. "the smart one", "the beautiful one", "the athletic one", and/or "the slow one". Oftentimes, children assigned to the more negative roles find it difficult to get out of those roles much to their detriment.
Parental perception of children in multichild families often affect the children's relationship with each other, either for good or ill. Many favorite or golden children in families are either worshipped or derided by their siblings. There are some siblings who view their favorite sibling as someone to be adulated and copied, knowing the sibling's stellar reputation. Many favorite or golden children view themselves as family gatekeepers and example makers, especially if they are the oldest children in their famililes.
Other favorite or golden children view themselves as quite different than their siblings. They observe what their other siblings are doing and decide to create a different and/or more positive lifestyle for themselves. These children are the ones who are often derided and bullied by their siblings who view their favorite or golden sibling as a threat to their sibling modus operandi. Many siblings are often envious of their favorite and golden sibling because of the privileges the latter receives and believe that by bullying that sibling, he/she will be put in "his/her place" and be a human being.
Oftentimes, the sibling or siblings do not have to be the favorite or golden person in the family. The sibling or siblings are just smarter and more successful than the others. The others envy that sibling or siblings, indicating why they themselves are not successful. Many the less unsuccessful sibling or siblings resent the more successful sibling or siblings, believing that the latter have superiority and/or entitlement complexes.
Many less successful siblings believe that it is the OBLIGATION of the more successful sibling to support them and if they chose not to do so, the more successful siblings are thoughtless and selfish. There are many instances of less successful siblings expecting the more successful among them to support them. In the movie SOUL FOOD, the most successful sibling of the Joseph family, Teri, is expected by her family to foot all of the bills. Teri would remark that her family considered her an ATM machine i.e. automatically Terry's money. There was even one segment in which the other less successful siblings expected Teri to pay most of the funeral costs; however, the other siblings added that they will pay the rest of the costs-in time!
Another example of this behavior is a well-known actor/producer/upcoming mogul, the youngest of nine children, who stated that one of his siblings refused to speak to him because he refused to support her family. Never mind that this celebrity is paying for the college tuition of the majority of his nieces and nephews in addition to financing his brother's upscale restaurant. A third example is a well-known singer and music mogul, the third of eight children, whose homeless and indigent brother expects her to fully support him. However, this celebrity refuses to do so because the brother has a history of abusing controlled and other substances.
There is an even more egregious example of contention between the less successful and more successful siblings. In a news show, there was a story which two unemployed brothers framed a more successful brother, causing the latter to be imprisoned. These two unemployed brothers maintained that they were going to obtain the third brother's monies one way or another. Luckily, a nonrelated friend got the brother out of prison!
Conversely, the disfavored child can be pitied and derided by his/her siblings. He/she is often viewed as the sad sack by other siblings. The other siblings consider him/her as someone to be merely tolerated but never acknowledged. The disfavored sibling is often the one who other siblings can conveniently blame their shortcomings on.
The disfavord sibling is often a reminder to the other siblings or sibling what NOT to be. The disfavored sibling is often ostracized by other siblings, either covertly or overtly! He/she is viewed as "the different one" by other family members. Many disfavored siblings are often bullied by other family members because of the former's negative family status.
On the contrary, there are some disfavored siblings who are idolized by other family members. The disfavored sibling presents different and/or more interesting family dynamic. He/she is viewed as a breath of fresh air. The other siblings, tired of the same, homogenous family dynamic, appreciate the differences the disfavored sibling present and see that there are more different and colorful avenues to explore.
Many disfavored siblings often become highly successful and worshipped by their siblings because nothing was ever expected of them. These siblings defied family naysaying, attaining golden status in their adulthoods. There are other disfavored siblings who become quite estranged from their siblings, going their wildly independent ways. They usually have support systems outside the family with friends and associates. To these disfavored siblings, related family be damned to Hell because they did not receive the loving nurturance from their siblings. As far as these disfavored siblings are concerned, their siblings can be begone!
There are many disfavored siblings who are absorbed in their negativity. They are the underachievers and failures in life. They elect not to change their disfavored status thus electing to wallow in their so-called worthlessness, becoming utterly dejected emotionally and psychologically thus opening themselves to further negativity regarding life circumstances. Because many disfavored siblings feel worthless, they believe that they do not deserve success and are usually passive. As a result of their negative opinions and assessment of themselves, many of their siblings either begrudingly support them emotionally and financially or cut off all ties with them, letting them go to the bottom.
Many disfavored children can be quite manipulative, maintaining that it is the duty of the more successful and favored sibling to support them financially, emotionally, and/or psychologically. They often use their disfavored status as excuses in not achieving their ultimate human potential. They further use their disfavored status as adults to be continuously mired in their negative behaviors instead of actively changing it and becoming more proactive and positive in their lives.
Let me discuss the issue of the favorite or golden child further. Many favorite or golden siblings are often idolized and loved by their siblings. Still other siblings expect to ride on the successes of their favorite or golden sibling.
Other favorite or golden siblings because of their preferential parental treatment believe that the world owes them a living and are usually not proactive with their lives. They prefer to rest on their laurels, not exerting any type of effort to achieve anything which is not easily obtained. They prefer to live in their glorious and noble past than to achieve anything presently. Many siblings, oftentimes, the disfavored sibling, actually outachieve and outsucceed their more favorite or golden sibling-just to show their family that their golden child "was not all that."
Again, there is the issue of birth order relating to sibling relationships and rivalry. Each child in a multichild family is treated differentially, preferentially, and has differing expectations placed upon him/her based upon his/her ordinal family position. Youngest children are often indulged and middle children are overlooked while the onus of responsiblities are placed upon oldest children.
The famous cry of many an oldest child is "why is it ALWAYS me- me me me". Yes, oldest children are often the gatekeepers and example makers in their families. They must be on 24/7/365. They are the little adults in their families.
Oldest children are often the ones the younger siblings go to and/or must look after. They are often blamed the most when things go wrong in the family. However, they are expected to be right without any credit given. They are considered the Rocks of Gilbraltars to their younger siblings.
Oldest children are the pillars to their siblings. The younger siblings view their oldest siblings as variably god-like. Many oldest children are often advisers to their younger siblings. They pave the way for their younger siblings in terms of school, parents, relationships, and careers. They tell the younger siblings what they should do and avoid. To the younger siblings, the oldest child, not the parents, is usually seen as the approachable adviser and confidant!
While younger siblings can be joys to oldest children, they can be quite noisome nuisances. It is younger siblings who often cause oldest chlidren to be punished frequently and more harsher because the latter supposedly knows better. Many oldest siblings use the concept of might=right in their relationships with their younger siblings. If the younger sibling purposely or inadvertently gets the oldest sibling into trouble, the oldest sibling often use power and might to retaliate against the younger sibling.
Many oldest siblings can be quite dominating towards their younger siblings. They are quite adept at using control to obtain their ends to their means. Other oldest siblings love to use their status and power to intimidate and use main psychological coercion on their younger siblings. Their ordinal position in the family mandates that they must be supreme, first, and "the most."
In many families even in adulthood, the oldest sibling is viewed as the family bulwark and guide. The younger siblings often depends upon the oldest sibling to make the most difficult and complex family decisions. While many oldest siblings glorify in this, there are others who believe that as adult, the other siblings are quite capable in contributing equally to family decision making.
On the contrary, many younger siblings detest the intrusive and controlling behavior of their oldest siblings. They believe that as adults, each family member should be treated and considered equally as adults and have their say. They maintain that their oldest siblings view them either as children or lesser people instead of the adults they actually are. These younger siblings contend that their oldest siblings always take over whether it is family events or just daily interactions. They assert no matter how old they are, they are viewed and treated as subordinates by their oldest siblings. Conversely, the oldest siblings believe that their younger siblings DO NOT want to grow up and take responsibility for their individual lives.
© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams