Adult Sibling Relationships: They come in all different forms

You know it is quite amazing. My mom is one of six children – three  sisters and two brothers – and she’s speaking to all of them. In fact, there was never a time that any of them were so mad, frustrated, betrayed by one another not to speak. The mere mention of such drama had them all looking at me like I had two heads.

The subject came up after the Thanksgiving feast had been consumed in the basement of Aunt Diane’s home in South Weymouth. As usual, the females had gathered around the kitchen table while the male counterparts headed outside for the traditional T-giving football game.

There were 36 family members present this year. All talking.

What was the secret there?

“It just would never occur to us to handle disagreements that way,” said one sister.

“We’re all different but also have a lot in common,” said another.

Could it be that their common family history plays a part in their bond? They were raised by a single parent mom. They didn’t have much but they did have each other. When you get any of them talking about their childhood, there are certain to be fond memories like how they used to  spread baby powder on the long hallway floor and slide across it or how there was always a younger brother or sister tagging along on the older siblings’ dates.

As you may have read in previous blog posts, there is a lot of sadness out there when it comes to enstranged sibling relationships. Give me 10 seconds and I can give you a listing of colleagues, family, friends who are 1)not talking to a sibling, 2) or don’t have much of a relationship to speak of. Sad but it’s a reality.

I recently came across a report published by Ohio State University on the four main forms adult sibling relationships can take. Where do you fall?

Types of Sibling Relationships

One researcher, Gold, described five types of sibling relationships based on their involvement with each other. They included “the intimate, the congenial, the loyal, the apathetic, and the hostile.”

Intimate siblings are especially close and extremely devoted. They value their relationship above all others. Congenial siblings are friends. They are close and caring but place a higher value on their marriage and parent-child relationships. Loyal siblings base their relationship on their common family history. They maintain regular, periodic contact, participate in family gatherings, and support each other during times of crisis. Apathetic siblings feel indifferent toward each other. They rarely are in contact. Hostile sibling relationships are based on anger, resentment, and very negative feelings.

In Gold’s sample, 14 percent of sibling relationships were intimate, 30 percent loyal, 34 percent congenial, 11 percent apathetic, and 11 percent hostile. Scott (1990 as cited in Cicirelli, 1995) replicated Gold’s study and found that 95 percent of her participants had either intimate, loyal, or congenial relationships while the remaining 5 percent were apathetic. None of her sample had a hostile sibling relationship.

Were do you fall?

Why should you care?

I can’t answer that but its worth some thought on your behalf. Those with positive adult sibling relationships report lower depression, more healthy relationships with others and overall better health. Could the key to some happiness come from having close connections with our siblings.

There’s another great book out there on this topic called,  “Sibling Revelry: 8 Steps to Successful Adult Sibling Relationships” by Joann, Majory and Joel Levitt. I’m reading it and promise to keep you posted.

The book promises to help individuals regain closeness with your siblings, heal old wounds, and pave the way to a happier, healthier future. Learn how to:

* Define your relationship — Unload the myths of your shared past…and discover who you are to each other now

* Witness the effect of old rivalries — And use them as a springboard to great adult relationships

* Envision a new future — Break the habits that hold your relationship firmly in place…and create a powerful new vision for yourself and your family

* Explore new modes of contact — Examine the “role” you play in your family and free yourself from damaging old patterns

* Heal wounds and misunderstandings — Resolve old conflicts as you sort through old issues of fear, anger, guilt, and hurt

* Invent new family legends — Uncover the myths and legends that have shaped your relationship…then create new ones

* Make room for differences — Clear out “sibling clutter” and accept your siblings exactly as they are

* Honor your strengths — Celebrate the positive qualities each sibling brings to the relationship…and set the stage for a lifelong connection

Tune in this Friday to meet my aunts and hear about their sibling relationships today.


One Response

  1. Hi Girls
    What a great write up. Where do you find
    the time to do all this. So proud of you
    Aunt Diane

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