Sibling rivalry: Helping your children get along

Listening to your children fight with each other can be frustrating. Here's help minimizing conflict between your kids.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have children, you know that maintaining peace in your household can be difficult.

One minute your children are getting along and the next minute they're at each other's throats. Knowing when and how to intervene can make a difference in how your children relate to each other. Find out what you can do to manage sibling rivalry.

What causes sibling rivalry?

Sibling rivalry typically develops as siblings compete for their parents' love and respect. Signs of sibling rivalry might include hitting, name-calling, bickering and immature behavior. Moderate levels of sibling rivalry are a healthy sign that each child is able to express his or her needs or wants.

What factors might affect how well siblings get along?

While sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up, many factors can affect how well your children get along with each other — including age, sex and personality, the size of your family, whether it's a blended family, and each child's position in it. For example:

  • Children close in age might battle each other more than children farther apart in age.
  • Children of the same sex might share more of the same interests, but they might also be more likely to compete against each other.
  • Middle children — who might not get the same privileges or attention as the oldest or youngest child in the family — might act out to feel more secure.
  • Children whose parents are divorced might feel driven to compete for the attention of the parent with whom they live — especially if stepsiblings also live in the home.

As your children get older, the way they interact is likely to change. While younger children tend to fight physically, older children are more likely to have verbal arguments. Competitiveness between siblings typically peaks between ages 10 and 15. However, sometimes sibling rivalry can continue on into adulthood.

Feb. 20, 2015 See more In-depth