Fighting With Your Sibling Makes You A Better Person Later In Life

by : Julia Banim on : 22 Aug 2018 23:09
Fighting with your siblings makes you a better person.Fighting with your siblings makes you a better person.Deposit Photos

Like many people, I spent a weird amount of my childhood shrieking at my sister for taking too long during ‘her turn’ on The Sims.


Other similarly heated arguments concerned offences such as pog stealing, birthday cake hogging and this one time when she brought my toy mouse into nursery school and promptly lost it.

We have since grown up into – reasonably – mature and capable adults, and this could well be on account of our occasional sisterly bickering, rather than in spite of it.

Indeed, a University of Cambridge study discovered how a healthy dose of sibling rivalry could be beneficial for mental and emotional development as well as developing those all-important social skills. It would appear Liam and Noel could well be onto something…


Entitled ‘Toddlers Up’, this five year research project looked at the cognitive and social development of children between the ages of two and six years of age.

In total, 140 kids were observed, with surprising results. It was noted how siblings can have a positive impact on a person’s early development, even when the bond is a temperamental one.

Although sustained sibling rivalry could lead to relationship-building and behavioural issues in later life, milder forms could indeed be beneficial for ensuring healthy childhood development.

These intriguing findings were later written up in book form by Dr Claire Hughes, Deputy Director at the University of Cambridge’s prestigious Centre for Family Research.

Social Understanding and Social Lives elaborated further on the project’s findings, including the reasons why parents shouldn’t automatically force warring kids to ‘make friends, make friends, never, never break friends’.


Speaking with The Guardian about her book, Dr Hughes said:

The more combative siblings are, and the more they argue and the older child puts the younger one down, the more they are learning complex lessons about communication and the subtleties of language.

She added:

The more the children upset each other, the more they learn about regulating their emotions and how they can affect the emotions of others.

The more they point-score, the more it can motivate them to achieve.

However, a line does of course need to be drawn somewhere, as explained by Dr Hughes:

Of course, if sibling rivalry gets out of hand, it can be very negative. Persistent violence is a strong predictor that the aggressive child will bully their peers.

I don’t want to be the woman who says it’s good if your children hate each other, but parents might take some sort of comfort, when their children are fighting, in the discovery that they are learning valuable social skills and intelligence which they will take outside the home, and apply to other children.

I mean, these findings don’t exactly give you permission to start deliberating beef with your siblings for no good reason.

However, it certainly means we should all feel a little more positive about – and even grateful for – all those silly childhood squabbles.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News


The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    Sibling rivalry 'good for children'

  2. University of Cambridge

    Sibling rivalry and brotherly love