Seemingly innocent sibling fights can affect the quality of their relationships, says a recent study published in Child Development.
Researchers in Missouri University identified two major types of conflict among siblings after interviewing pairs aged between eight and 20. "The first conflict area includes issues about physical and emotional personal space, such as borrowing items without asking and hanging around when older siblings have friends over," said Nicole Campione-Barr, MU assistant professor in psychological sciences.
"When these issues were present, the siblings reported less trust and communication. The second conflict area includes equality and fairness issues, such as taking turns and sharing responsibilities. This had no impact on relationship quality."
While both younger and older siblings reported personal space conflicts, older siblings reported these conflicts more frequently. This suggests that older siblings are more sensitive to personal space issues and may indicate the beginning of their separation from the family.
"Parents need to establish and enforce family rules about respecting privacy, personal space and property," Campione-Barr said.
"However, when sibling conflicts occur, there needs to be negotiations between siblings. Earlier research tells us that parents should step aside as they have a tendency to make matters worse."
This was the first study to examine the types of sibling conflicts.