You may pass off your children's sibling rivalry as a normal part of growing up, but according to researchers, these fights may lead to something more serious in the future.

A recent study posted at had 145 pairs of adolescent siblings answer survey questions. The researchers then divided the answers into two major sources of most fights between siblings: violations of personal domain, and conflicts over fairness and equality.

"Our results show that conflicts about violations of personal space and property are associated with greater anxiety and lower self-esteem one year later in life," says Nicole Campione-Barr, MU assistant professor of psychological science in the College of Arts and Science.

The authors of the study found that while parents are the natural arbiters in the household, it would be better if there are strict rules to avoid circumstances where the sources of fights happen. For example, knocking before entering a sibling’s room can alleviate issues with personal space. A list of shared chores to do and ample time for play can promote fairness and equality, regardless of whether or not one child is younger than the other.

The key is to set reasonable boundaries. If these are breached, it’s always important to explain the consequences of your children’s actions in a calm, loving, but authoritative manner. Avoid comparing one sibling to the other, and as much as possible deal with their faults with positivity. This way, you’ll cultivate an environment that’s warm and supportive, but also promotes fairness and discipline.

(Photo by Alec Couros via Flickr Creative Commons)

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