12 Sibling Rivalry

Based on Research by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.  and Claudia M. Mueller, Ph.D.  Psychology Science Minute written by Sarah W. Arnett, Psy.D.

Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Tech, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

Growing up with a younger brother has its ups and downs.  One moment he was my best friend, next my mortal enemy. Do you have fond memories of having a best friend living in the next room as well as having them wage war on your favorite toys? As parents, what is the best way to manage sibling rivalry?

Psychological research shows that all siblings fight, and 3-7 year olds average 3.5 times/hour, about 10 minutes fighting per every hour of play. Yet, fighting can become violent or predictive of interpersonal difficulties later in life. Dr. Laurie Kramer’s recent studies have found social skills training to be an effective method for reducing sibling conflict and increasing warmth by teaching siblings how to have fun with each other (and parents how to encourage this). Siblings are taught skills by instruction and role play.

Teach your children:

1. How to initiate play together,
2. How to find activities they both like to do together,
3. How to gently decline when they’re not interested and
4. How to recognize the feelings of their sibling also known as empathy.

So the next time you find your children squabbling with each other, instead of punishment, try teaching them these skills so both can enjoy playing together.

That’s your Florida Institute of Technology psychology science minute, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.


Kramer, Laurie, and Radley, Chad.  (1997). Improving sibling relationships among young children: a social skills training model. Family Relations, 46,3, 237-26.

Ross, Hildy S., Michael Ross, Nancy Stein, and Tom Trabasso. (2006). How siblings resolve their conflicts. Child Development, 77, 6, 1730-1745.

Show More
Back to top button