Communication Strategies in Intimate Sibling Relationships

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Case Scenario
Marie recently graduated high school and in the fall will be leaving to attend a university, her brother, Dan, is younger than her by three years and has just finished his freshman year of high school. Over the course of the summer months Marie has been busy preparing herself for her first semester in college, while her parents have been scrambling to make sure she makes the adjustment smoothly into college. On the other hand, Dan has spent the majority of his summer working at the local supermarket, playing video games, and hanging out at the pool. In the times between, Dan tries to spend time with his family and sister, but feels like his parents don’t spend any time with him; Marie feels, however, that when she doesn’t have time to spend with anyone, let alone her brother. She believes Dan is smothering her and wants something from her that she doesn’t have right now. Dan gripes and complains that Marie gets all the attention and claims that no one cares about him. What complicates their problems even more is their age difference, while Marie is entering a turning point in her life and maturity, she feels that Dan is stuck in the same high school mentality, Dan just feels that his sister is acting like something she’s not.

Definition and Analysis of Sibling Rivalry
One of the most frequently-occurring relationship difficulties occurs between siblings. Sibling rivalry is any form of competition or animosity between brothers and/or sisters; whether or not they are related by blood.

Most people in western cultures have at least one sibling, logically following; siblings spend more time together throughout childhood and adolescence than they do with their parents. There are many factors that complicate the brotherly or sisterly bond that sibling share; parental treatment, age, birth order, experiences and other people. What makes sibling rivalry a very pertinent issue to the human condition is its prevalence throughout recorded history. For believers of Christian theology, there is the story of Cain and Abel, scholars of ancient history note the conflict between mythological Romulus and Remus, tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams, column writer Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren and the list continues. Sibling rivalry includes a host of different manifestations from its most mild form of competition, to extreme cases where they may be physical and/or emotional violence.

Rivalry between brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters can many times occur after the birth of a second child to one parent or both. In many cases, however, sibling rivalry starts before the arrival of a younger sibling. This tension and lack of understanding of the events taking place manifests itself in children and adolescents as they begin to become aggressive and resistant toward their parent or parents. What separates this communication problem from most others is that because the problems often manifest when children are young, it is difficult for parents to communicate with them; these problems in turn, translate to adolescence and adulthood, and often adult siblings fight for the exact same reasons young children do. At that stage in their life, however, the now adult siblings are more apt to physically, emotionally, and intellectually harm each other and to be hurt by each other. Lifetimes of patterns of communication has essentially set themselves in stone, and are difficult to change. Considering the above scenario Marie and Dan have experienced many of the common problems with sibling rivalry, minus the emotional or physical abuse. However, because of their age difference, birth order, and perceptions of how their parents treat them, their once competitive relationship has turned ugly. In this specific case one sees two individuals who are essentially competing to define who they are, at the same time one seeks to identify herself separate from her family, while the younger is confused about the turning point in his...
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