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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
December 04, 2012

Sibling Rivalry Can Be Overcome, Study Says

Activities that promote teamwork and cooperation are the key to reducing those daily squabbles among young siblings. By Charlene J. Owen

For mothers who have two or more children, sibling rivalry is a common sight. Although it seems like a normal phase of growing up, a study posted on promotes a way for siblings to get along, and in turn, lessen their aggressive conduct both in and out of the house.

Research professor Mark Feinberg of the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University explains that when experienced too often, sibling rivalry may cause anti-social and delinquent behaviors in a public setting.

 “On the other hand,” he says, “positive sibling relationships are linked to all kinds of positive adjustment, including improved peer and romantic relationship quality, academic adjustment and success, and positive well-being and mental health.”

The study involved 174 rural and urban families that had one child in fifth grade and another in a lower level. Questionnaires were given out to each family, and the siblings were secretly video recorded during regular family interactions. A book on parenting siblings was also distributed.

A program called SIBlings Are Special (SIBS) was given to randomly assigned families. It included 12 after-school sessions which had exercises, discussions, and games that promoted cooperation between siblings. The goal was to show children that there were more positive benefits to working as a team that working against each other.

The results showed that those who underwent the program gained self-confidence, performed better in school, and showed fewer symptoms of aggression and depression than those who didn’t. Parents also benefited from SIBS as it taught them several new parenting techniques.

“We think that by encouraging siblings to feel like they're part of a team, and by giving them tools to discuss and resolve issues, parents can help their kids develop more positive relationships with each other, which can benefit everyone in the family,” Feinberg explains.

(Photo by Alex Couros via Flickr Creative Commons)

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