Explaining the Impact of Birth Order on Siblings’ Relationships

Families and relatives have been an integral part of society and culture since times immemorial. They have been the survival units for individuals to co-exist in societies that are impacted by and continue to impact society and culture as a whole. The members of the family are united with one another by virtue of their relationships with each other, cultural, biological, and psychological. The members of the families have different roles and relationships with one another.

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The researcher notes that culture and society have a major influence in impacting the roles and titles across diverse families. However, the basic emotions and sentiments between the family members, more specifically the siblings across their life span have been explored, considering that it is an unchanging and more or less steady sentiment occurring among them.

Relationships between children can vary and be analyzed on the basis of a number of factors, primarily the position of the siblings, more popularly termed as ‘birth-order’, the distinct roles and functions of the siblings, and the regular familial expectations from the siblings. Once again, the behavioral norms of siblings are primarily based on the hierarchical position of the siblings, whether they are the eldest or the youngest or are in the middle order.

Siblings who are older than the others in the family assume the unsaid responsibility of looking after or caring for the younger ones in the family, while the younger siblings are those who are shielded and cared for by those who are older or rank higher in birth order. Siblings within the family are the primary agents of socialization and it is while living together that they learn the many aspects of life by virtue of their relationships with each other.

In the paper, the researcher attempts to explore the relationships between siblings of a family and aims to elucidate upon their birth order as an important factor affecting siblings in a family.

The order in which a child is born has a tremendous impact on the overall growth and development of the child. Birth order is the rank or order in which a child is born, with regard to the other siblings of the family. The effect of birth order is not only apparent in the overall personality of the children but even the relationships between them. In families where the income is less, the inter-sibling relationships are likely to suffer as the parents may be liable to focus the resources on any one of the children, in more probability the first child (Sulloway, 2001).

The relationships between siblings begin at a rather young age primarily with the birth and arrival of the second child and the first children tend to display certain behaviors like anxiety, withdrawal, aggressiveness, and dependency.

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However, the arrival of the sibling also facilitates the ability to learn new skills and behaviors which in most cases benefit the children. The development of children by virtue of co-existence with their siblings is an ongoing process and extends through the childhood years to adulthood. The companionship between siblings is the most noted attribute which also includes admiration, love, and episodes of quarrels among the siblings. Lamb & Sutton-Smith (1982) explicate that relationships between siblings continue to progress and develop across the life span proposing that this is an incessant process.

The siblings thus are able to experience a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative, which is the major bonding factor between them.

Personalities are known to be affected by birth order because the relations of parents with children is diverse and is to a great extent impacted by the birth order of the siblings (Ernst and Angst 1983), as a result of which dissimilar birth orders can stimulate parents to socialize in dissimilar ways with their children.

According to Eisenman (1992), first-borns are extra apprehensive, superior accomplishers, and more innovative, resulting in their lives being extremely dissimilar merely because of them being born as the first child in the family. This may attribute to the fact that a majority of parents tend to be excessively concerned for their first children, and also may possibly be more restraining with him or her than with children born later. It is this theory that elucidates the higher risk of divorce among marriages between first-borns because the restriction is certainly interrelated with an annulment threat (Jockin et al. 1996).

The influence of the relationships between brothers and sisters on gender development is also immense. The relationship between brothers and sisters benefits boys in enabling them to become more expressive while the girls benefit by acquiring traits of competitiveness and assertiveness (Sulloway 1996).

Hostile relationships between siblings could be due to the difference in treatment by mothers towards the children and siblings are attached to one another and do look for support whether financial, physical, or psychological from each other. The closeness of the relationship between siblings of the same gender is also greater as compared to that of the opposite genders. It has also been reported that nearly two-thirds of individuals are attached to their grown-up siblings and it has been confirmed that seventy-eight percent of them get along very well with each other.

Studies have also established that the bonds between siblings are greater and more enhanced when they are not married or do not have children as compared to when they are settled with their families (White 2001). Thus, the relationships between siblings are highly impacted by age, marital status, number of siblings, and other factors such as the availability of income and resources (White 2001).

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The experiences of life and other social and cultural factors also have a crucial impact on the relationships between brothers and sisters. Life with its rich and varied experiences also plays a crucial role in bonding the siblings together, improving their attachments with one another. According to a study, the bond between siblings is also augmented during difficult life experiences including the divorce of a sibling, widowhood, or any other physical and psychological problems, suffered by any one of the siblings (Connidis, 1992).

However, research has proved when siblings get married and begin their familial responsibilities, the level and intensity of the contact between them reduces (White, 2001). Thus we can see that the birth order has a tremendous impact on the relationships of siblings with one another. Several theories and researches have proved that besides the immense impact of culture and society, the hierarchical position or rank of an individual also has a profound influence on the inter-sibling relationships between individuals.


Connidis I. (1992). Web.

Eisenman, R. (1992). Birth order, development and personality. Acta Paedopsychiatr; 55 (1):25-7.

Ernst, C., & Angst, J. (1983). Birth order: Its influence on personality. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Jockin et al. (1996). Web.

Lamb, M. E., Sutton-Smith, B., (1982). Sibling Relationships: Their Nature and Significance of the Lifespan. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sulloway, F. J. (1996). Born to rebel: Birth-order, family dynamics, and creative lives. New York: Pantheon Books.

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Sulloway, F. J. (2001). Birth-order, sibling competition, and human behavior. In H. R. Holcomb, III (Ed.), Conceptual challenges in evolutionary psychology: Innovative research strategies. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

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