So, why is sibling rivalry positive?
Research from Cambridge University has found that fighting siblings help each other’s emotional development. Largely, because the relationships help siblings to explore a large range of feelings in relation to social interaction, which is likely to help them in future social situations, particularly when it comes to verbalising their feelings. Siblings who squabbled tended to have a more mature range and understanding of emotionally rich language, than those without siblings. The lead study researcher, Dr. Claire Hughes said that “the balance of our evidence suggests that children’s social understanding may be accelerated by their interaction with siblings in many cases. One of the key reasons for this seems to be that a sibling is a natural ally. They are often on the same wavelength, and they are likely to engage in the sort of pretend play that helps children to develop an awareness of mental states.”
In short, sibling fighting allows children to grow up practicing social skills that will be necessary to see them peacefully through life. They get to practice the less positive side of relationships, tackle personal conflict and understand how their behaviour affects others in the safety of their own home, so that when they leave it, they carry with them the important lessons to future relationships. With no, or little fighting, they lose the opportunity for this important emotional development. For parents, sibling rivalry can often be hard to handle and something that most seek to, unsuccessfully, avoid, but for the children, it’s a gift.