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Critical Review of Beyond Rivalry written by Elizabeth Stark, Psychology Today

Updated on May 28, 2016

The article “Beyond Rivalry” discusses complex relationships between siblings. Young adults may estrange from their siblings due to life stress from many aspects. However, as people grow older, they usually have more contact with each other. In addition, critical events, based on psychological study, can pose either positive or negative influence on their relationship. Another research found that more than a half people increase contact not only because external conditions, like more free time, are available but also it fills their emotional gaps. At last, the article discussed various factors affecting how much contact siblings will have and as well why siblings do not ask each other for help.

Firstly, the author believes that the siblings may turn to alienation but then get close because of the changes of their own social connection. I wholeheartedly agree with this point. In the fast-paced and changeable society, people are becoming more materialistic and selfish. As children are mature, they move far away their house and start their own living. Then, they have to concentrate on their work and other social relationships. They are lured to the busy modern lifestyle. Step by step, they lose their contact with their siblings without their realization. By the time their parents have passed away, they may turn to alienation. Fortunately, as they get older, the change in their social relationship and experience of being deserted when their friends get away offers them an excellent chance of reuniting with their sibling. Brothership helps siblings to resist the feeling of solitude and have happy periods in the rest of their life. In addition, high divorce and love birth rates also account for sibling reunion. There are fewer members in each family nowadays than in the past, so people are more likely to suffer from loneliness. The sibling relationship, therefore, play a more and more important role in filling their emotion gaps, especially when they are ageing.

Secondly, the author mentions the difference between men’s and women’s feelings towards their siblings. She claims that women have closer relationship with their siblings than men do. In her opinion, in case of a sister’s or brother’s heath decline, men just increase responsibility for a sibling while women are more likely to show emotional motivations like feelings of empathy and security. Also, some mentioned researches reveal that the bond between brothers is much weaker than it between sisters. Nevertheless, from my point of view, the given evidence is not strong and convincing enough. It does not clearly indicate whether women or men are closer to their siblings, but it just shows the difference in expressing their emotions and care towards the brothers or sisters. It is a common knowledge that men are not as chatty and good at showing emotions and feelings. Thus, they may mistakenly be thought not to care for their siblings. In fact, they, in contrast, seem to be more willing to help their siblings than women. Particularly, if they are firstborns, the will seriously take over the responsibility of looking after their younger brother or sisters and try to have as intimate relationship with them as they could.

Thirdly, the author is under the impression that critical events can bring about both positive and negative effects on sibling relationship. To support her point, she shows the event of parental sickness or death as an illustration. She supposes that this event can worsen the strained relationship between siblings but improve the already-close connection. In my opinion, this is not completely true but just her one-sided point of view. I believe that there is still the possibility of a different case. The siblings who are immersed in rivalry and conflicts may turn to each other and have a better relationship. After their parent’s death, they may get the feeling of increased responsibility for their siblings, so they wish to end the conflicts and strengthen the tenuous connections with their family members. On the contrary, the existing intimate relationship between those who have been close since childhood may be destroyed for inheritance disputes. The author has had such a biased approach to the influence of critical events to sibling relationships.

Last but certainly not least, the author has found out a fascinating phenomenon that contact among siblings may decrease but positive feelings increase. She asserts that older people usually think of good things about their brother or sisters when they have to live separately or almost lose contact with them for a long time. From my own experience, I agree with this point. I have met a lot of people in such circumstances. When they were young, they could not put up with their siblings and wished to live as far from them as possible. However, after a prolonged period of separation, they reunited with delight and nostalgic memories. Only positive feelings to their siblings did remain while all the conflicts and rivalry had been gone. Their relationship then became much better and closer than it had been in the past. Therefore, this proves that the strained sibling relationships may take some time to be strengthened and fostered.

In conclusion, this article is very informative and worth reading. It introduces me some surprising but interesting and useful findings about sibling relationship. Although there are some points that are not very true and clearly-presented, the article makes me revise my poor opinion of sibling rivalry and relationships as well as realize the importance of foster and strengthen this relationship.

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