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Has Your Poor Relationship with Your Brother (or Sister) Soured Your Love Life?

There is a story in my family that one night, when I was little, a parent caught me going into my sleeping brother’s room with a knife in my hand. I may or may not have been sleepwalking (although that’s not a usual problem for me) . When I’ve asked family about this years later, no one (will admit) that any such thing happened, and I can’t remember it myself. Tree in a forest type thing.

But although no blood was drawn that night, I have to admit I’ve had many issues with siblings, including not speaking to them for years. I was very ashamed, as it appeared that other people had Fun with Dick and Jane lives with their own brothers and sisters.

As it happens, August is Family Murder Month, according to PsychCentral, but don’t get too anxious: European Psychiatry says that only 2% of inter-family murders are fratricide (or sororicide.) (Wikipedia points out: In a military context, fratricide [also] refers to a service member killing a comrade. Sad.)

But moving on from murder, Reader’s Digest says:

Siblings are hardwired to engage in rivalry because they compete with one another for one of life’s most critical resources—parental care. “Two hundred years ago, half of all children did not make it out of childhood,” says Frank Sulloway, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “The intensity of sibling competition makes much more sense when you realize that very small differences in parental favoritism could determine whether a child is taken to a doctor or not.”

mom making a cakeAh, sibling rivalry! You might be closer to a parent, or even your friends now, but no one will be as similar to you as your brother or sister. After all, you shared all the early formative events and years right next to them, those memories and events that psychologists say mold you for life. Plus, siblings are the longest-lasting family ties we have.

NPR points out how important siblings are and how they help us deal with conflict as adults, especially intimate ones.

Most such relationships are close — two-thirds of people in one large study said a brother or sister was one of their best friends. (I interpret that as: one-third of us are no such thing.)

Siblings are a crucial part of a child’s development, too, teaching one another socialization skills and the rules of dominance and hierarchy, all part of the eternal struggle for parental resources.

A study by the University of Kentucky says, go ahead: blame your slow love life on your brothers and sisters. Our Problems Are Your Sibling’s Fault: Exploring the Connections Between Conflict Styles of Siblings During Adolescence and Later Adult Committed Relationships

Results indicate that multiple types of conflict styles used with siblings during adolescence correspond to similar conflict styles used in adult romantic relationships.

So whether your relationship with your impossible brother or annoying sister is a stony silence or throwing stones, you might want to take another look to see if there’s a coping mechanism somewhere in there.  Probably that would help in other parts of your life, too. Because your lover is bound to be just as annoying from time to time, and then what will you do?

Do you get along with your brother or sister? Do you think it helps or hurts your other relationships? (I think it has not helped my relationships.)

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If you can’t read my handwriting: “Mom, if something should happen to my dumb sister, could I get an imaginary friend?”



Has Your Poor Relationship with Your Brother (or Sister) Soured Your Love Life?

Donna Barstow

Cartoonist for LA Times, Parade, WSJ, Glamour, PsychCentral, Barron's, Weight Watchers, and textbooks & Chicken Soup books. Author and editor of 2 cartoon books and a Barnes & Noble calendar.

I both write and draw all my cartoons. You are warmly invited to share the link to this cartoon. The full-size cartoons are all copyrighted, so please email me at pen.drawing AT g mail (squish it) for rates for use in textbooks, prints, presentations, publications, or websites. Email me AT pen.drawing @ gmail. com. (Squish the address.)

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APA Reference
, . (2017). Has Your Poor Relationship with Your Brother (or Sister) Soured Your Love Life?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Aug 2017
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