Getting Along With Your Grown Up Siblings

If you grew up with siblings, you know that bickering, finger pointing, and fighting as kids is part of having a brother or sister. In fact, sibling relationships in childhood can be a template for individuals to be able to develop healthy social skills and conflict resolution strategies that we use in relationships throughout our lives.

What happens though when this conflict resolution “practice” goes awry? Unresolved conflicts with siblings in adulthood can lead to estrangements, high levels of stress, adult sibling rivalry, and family pain.

What can cause difficulties in Adult Sibling Relationships?

Overt Hostility

As children, we may hit our siblings, call each other names, or solve problems through aggression. If we do not properly grow out of childlike patterns of conflict resolution, we may continue to use aggression or hostility to address problems with our siblings in adulthood.

Keeping Score

Keeping score can be another pattern that can negatively impact a sibling relationship. Keeping score is when a person keeps track of what their sibling has done or hasn’t done for them, leading to sibling rivalry in adults.

Family Dynamics

Family dynamics often play into many adult sibling conflicts. For example, if one sibling feels that their sibling was the parents’ “favorite,” they may harbor resentment and anger. This frustration can come out in interactions with the perceived favorite sibling. Learning how to manage that anger can be harder in adult ages.


Many siblings have a healthy competition between each other which manifests through games and play. If this competition continues into adulthood, siblings may start unhealthy comparisons of salaries or careers.

Tips for improving relationships with your adult siblings:

Identify Common Patterns

Reflect on your childhood relationship with your sibling. It’s important to acknowledge that patterns which may be more appropriate to children, may not have evolved to suit your adult relationship.

What’s Your Role in the Family Relationship?

We can’t always control what others do, but we can control our own responses. How do you reaction to your sibling’s behavior? Being aware of your own responses can contribute to improvement in your relationship.

Adjust Your Expectations

Many people hold ideals about how our relationships with siblings should be. Often times, we’re disappointed if the relationship doesn’t live up to these ideals. Typically we expect conflict in these situations which may be causing unnecessarily defensive and confrontational behavior.

Ask Your Sibling Questions

It’s okay to ask your sibling questions about their feelings towards your adult sibling relationship. Asking questions may help you to better understand where they’re coming from. It can also help show your sibling that you care about their opinions.

Acknowledge That Family Dynamics Can Change

The dynamics within a family are formed over many years. With these deep rooted dynamics, it can often feel like there’s nothing we can do to change a relationship with a sibling. However, you can be the person to start a change! There are many things to do to improve. your relationship. Try giving a compliment, a hug or say something positive at a time when you might not have otherwise done so.

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