Once upon a time in a barren land with not a single computer or smart phone, iPad, Kindle, iPod to be found, people got their news from words printed on paper. Sometimes the paper was glossy with colored photos; sometimes the paper was more like a paper bag only thinner and more susceptible to wrinkling, even tearing.
In this quiet time with many fewer distractions, readers actually sat down and read. Yes, there were a few lone wolves who walked while reading, but they risked running into a pedestrian or, worse yet, into a car or bus.
During what has now been dubbed the “Pre-Plugged In Times,” I wrote a book about brothers and sisters. You had to go to a book store and buy the actual book. Or you could go to a local library and check out the book for a limited time. (Slow readers often ended up returning the book after the due date and incurring a fine.)
A magazine—you might think of it as a short book—contracted me to write an article about sibling rivalry. I had spent a good deal of effort debunking the inevitability of fighting with our siblings. Now I had to turn the tables and look at sibling relationships as destined to cause rivalry.
The old glass empty versus half full view:
While few adult siblings have severed their ties completely, approximately one-third of them describe their relationship as rivalrous or distant. They don’t get along with their sibling or have little in common, spend limited time together, and use words like “competitive,” “humiliating,” and “hurtful” to depict their childhoods.
I didn’t like turning the tables. But, hey, I needed the money after spending a good two years of my life writing Brothers&Sisters. Besides, “Psychology Today” was, at the time, the popular go-to magazine for all subjects about health, happiness (sadness), relationships.
The article generated a good deal of conversation. But, now, in these “Plugged-In Times,” I have published an ebook (Yep, I’ve jumped right in) that takes the original “glass is half full” stance.
6 points to support the general view that siblings are NOT born to feud and, even if they do battle in childhood, they often “get over it.”
- Freud was his mother’s firstborn. His father had two children from a previous marriage. About a year and a half after Freud was born, his mother gave birth to a second son, Julius. Freud remembers being extremely jealous of Julius, which probably contributed to his theories about sibling rivalry. Freud’s obsession with sibling rivalry has colored our perception of siblings ever since. Only recently have therapists and lay people alike begun to agree that siblings are not born to feud.
- One study revealed that two-thirds of siblings said a brother or sister was one of their best friends. Jill Suitor, a sociologist at Purdue University, and her colleagues polled 274 families with 708 adult children (ages twenty-three to sixty-eight) in 2009 and found that the majority had good feelings toward their siblings.
- Warmth between siblings grows over time, while the conflicts often fade. Even siblings who drift apart in their middle years tend to drift back together as they age. In fact, siblings who fought a lot as kids may become closer as adults.
- Research has shown that the more parents try to settle quarrels between their children, the more siblings fight. When parents send their kids to separate rooms, they don’t learn how to make deals, to compromise. Usually, one child is labeled the “good” kid and another “bad.” The “bad” child always gets blamed for trouble, while the “good” child “gets away with murder. Conversely, when parents butt out and let their kids learn how to resolve their own conflicts, they learn important skills like compromise that serve them well throughout their lives.
- In a study of adult sibling relationships, Joel I. Milgram and Helgola G. Ross showed that the on-time deaths of parents—deaths that occurred in the parents’ later years—brought siblings closer together. Shared grief and good memories were strong enough for brothers and sisters to weather any underlying issues.
- “If you ask siblings in young adulthood to name their closest relatives, they’ll list their spouse, their children, and possibly a parent. Siblings often end up fourth on the list.
When you ask the same question of older adults, they say they feel closer to siblings than to any other relatives except their children.