Why Do Siblings Fight?

Written by: Kate Montgomery, M.S.Ed., M.Phil.Ed.

Siblings walk alongside each other through developmental milestones and provide the opportunity to experiment with relationships and social skills – for better or worse.

Having a sibling is a unique social relationship as they often serve as a partner in life. Specifically, a sibling may be a child’s first significant peer relationship in early childhood. Social skills such as sharing, joining an activity or conversation, taking turns, and healthy conflict can all be practiced with siblings and are life skills that extend beyond the family home.

Caregivers can benefit from a greater understanding of siblings’ unique opportunities and concerns to scaffold the development of a healthy relationship between siblings. When conflict arises between siblings, it is often the result of the following:

  1. Feelings of isolation
  2. Resentment
  3. Differences in responsibilities
  4. Pressure to achieve

One way to address these factors is to empower siblings with the opportunity to discuss their sibling(s), both positively and negatively, appropriately. While it can be challenging to approach this conversation with a neutral perspective, each family can determine how to reflect on their family members in a way that aligns with their values.

The result is that if caregivers address these root causes across a domain of sibling conflicts, they can increase the health of the sibling relationship, which positively impacts the entire family unit, including them!