Sibling Jealousy in Adults

Written by jan weiss
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Sibling Jealousy in Adults
Understanding sibling jealousy from an adult perspective may serve to heal the wounds from the past. (sisters playing Charlies angels image by ennavanduinen from

Adult sibling relationships are meaningful, precious and timeless and are often filled with moments recounting past experiences and the joys and pitfalls of growing up. For many adults these memories might also be filled with emotional pain from feelings of neglect, rivalry and jealousy throughout childhood. Understanding sibling jealousy from an adult perspective may serve to heal the wounds from the past and allow you the space to move forward.

Generational Favoritism

Problems rooted in childhood often form the shape of adult sibling jealousy. Favouritism from parents has a profound effect on siblings' adult relationships. Often the favouritism shown to one child over another can actually carry on through the next generation when parents now favour some grandchildren over others.

Assigning Labels

Parents may label their children in early childhood--labels that will continue on into adulthood. These labels might be expectations parents have of each child. One child may be expected to succeed from early on, while another is labelled as a failure at an early age. As an adult, the child labelled as a failure may live to those low expectations. These labels have moulded the child to become the adult he or she now is, which causes jealously between siblings because one might be more successful, prettier or more athletic than the other.

The New Baby

Often, after the birth of a new baby, a parent will tend to the needs of the new baby, neglecting the needs of older children who may still be toddlers. If another parent steps in, it may cause jealousy between husband and wife when one parent feels the other parent is spending too much time with the older child. By age three children are able to define and evaluate their roles in a family and develop the skills necessary to adapt to the family structure. What may develop when a child feels neglected is a sense of withdrawal from the family and intense sibling jealousy that continues on into adulthood.


The relationship of siblings is somewhat like a marriage and when a brother or sister chooses a mate and gets married, other siblings may feel this new person has become a wedge in their relationship and the relationship may now be growing apart. According to an article in Psychology Today by Jane Mersky Leder, siblings with strained relationships after a sibling got married were far more common than the sibling relationship improving once the marriage took place. Siblings may be jealous of the new partner and see him or her as an intruder rather than an addition.

Taking Care of Aging Parents

As adults begin to age new conflicts may arise when it comes to caring for a parent and the amount of time each is willing to give. One sibling may live farther away or have a very interesting life that may include international travel and an exciting job. A pattern develops when one sibling is off enjoying his or her freedom and the other sibling who lives closer to the ageing parent is now forced to take on more and more responsibility. Resentment and jealously grow as the gap in responsibilities continues to widen.

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