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Sibling Rivalry Disorder

Sibling Rivalry Disorder may occur in families where there is conflict between brothers and sisters which is so severe that it leads to marital problems, creates a real danger of physical harm to one or more family members, is damaging to the self-esteem or psychological well-being of one or more family members and requires the intervention of psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. The main symptoms of this disorders are:

Some degree of emotional disturbance usually following the birth of an immediately younger sibling is shown by a majority of young children.

A sibling rivalry disorder should be diagnosed only if the degree or persistence of the disturbance is both statistically unusual and associated with abnormalities of socialinteraction.

Sibling jealousy.

Is not related to another psychiatric disorder, such as depression or drug abuse.

The most common symptom of sibling rivalry is frequent or continuous demands for attention: the older child may want to be held and carried about, especially when the parent is involved with the newborn sibling. Other symptoms may also include; acting like a baby again (regressive behavior), thumbsucking, wetting, or soiling. Aggressive behavior, may take the form of handling the newborn..

Associated Features:

None specifc have been identified.

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his diagnostic attempt, has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Anti Social Personality Disorder.
Conduct Disorder.


What causes sibling rivalry? There are multiple factors invoved. Children who are of a different sex, and of different ages and temperament figure prominentl. They also express the disatisfaction of having to share the one person or the two people they most want for themselves, their parents. Other factors include:

Position in the family - the oldest child may be burdened with responsibilities for the younger children or the younger child spends his life trying to catch up with an older sibling.

Sex - a son may hate his sister because his father seems more gentle with her. On the other hand, a daughter may wish she could go on the hunting trip with her father and brother.

Age - a five and eight year old can play some games together harmoniously however, when they reach ten and thirteen years of age, they will probably be poles apart in interests and preferrred activities.


The most important factor in the treatment of this disorder is parental attitude. A parents impariality is extremely important. It's inevitable that parents will feel differently about children who have different personalities with differing needs, dispositions and place in the family. It is therefore extremely important the when dealing with children a "fair" and "consistant" approach is between both, or more, children.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Treatment consists of a multimodal treatment program. The family should also be involved in therapy. Individual psychotherapy is needed to work on problem solving skills.

Pharmacotherapy [ See Psychopharmacology Section ] :


related books
  Beyond Sibling Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Become Cooperative, Caring, and Compassionate
UK Support Groups
  ADD/ADHD Family Support Group.

Mrs Gillian Mead. (President)
1a The High Street,
Dilton Marsh,
Nr. Westbury,
BA13 4DL.
Telephone: (01380) 726710
  V61.8 Sibling Relational Problem
  F93.3 Sibling Rivalry Disorder
PsychNet-UK Links
  Behavior Disorders
Page Updated
4th October 2003