Editor’s Note; When you have more than one child, is is but natural that there will be some sibling rivalry. But as parents you can curb it with reason and affection. Our member Cheeniya shares more. Tell us your thoughts on sibling rivalry here.  

Do you know who committed the first murder in the history of mankind? Cain! He murdered his sibling Abel. They, being the sons of Adam and Eve, became the first case of sibling rivalry in the world. There are several instances of calamitous sibling rivalry in mythology and history like Seth and Osiris, Jacob and Esau, Romulus and Remus etc. We see sibling rivalry even in Walt Disney’s famous cartoon, The Lion King between Scar and Mufasa. With great difficulty I refrain from quoting Mahabarath but I should this time draw from Ramayana the example of sibling rivalry between Vaali and Sugriva. 

Quite a few Tamil films had sibling rivalry as the theme but I would like to point out three as the best of them. First is the Gemini’s Apoorva Sahodarargal released in 1949. M.K.Radha donning the role of twins, Vijay and Vikraman had put up a sterling performance and the film was a runaway hit. The second is Uthama Puthiran starring the inimitable Sivaji Ganesan donning the role of twins, Parthiban and Vikraman. The third is not a story of twins like the other two and yet made a great impact on the audience. It is ‘Uyirile Kalandhadu’ which is centered around the feeling of great rivalry that Raguvaran as elder brother feels towards Surya, the younger brother. The film attempts a deep analysis of how certain innocuous actions of indulgence of the parents, portrayed by Sivakumar and Raadhika, towards the younger son build up a murderous rage in the elder.

In most of our families, there would be instances of our grandparents or great grandparents, particularly when they had multiple children, showing greater affinity towards some children and thus causing a great complex in other children. Such partiality had even caused an irreparable split among the families of the favoured and neglected children. My own maternal uncles were always at such loggerheads that if they had been adept in fencing, the sound of the clashing steel would have been heard round the clock! All this was because my grand mother had a marked bias towards the elder, being the one who had the right to perform her last rites when she expired! While the difficulty of the parents of multiple children in giving each of them an equal measure of their love and affection can be understood and appreciated, they had, by their seemingly partial attitude, fostered great enmity among the families down the line.

Take me for example. My only sibling is my brother seven years elder to me. I believe that right from the day I was born, my mother made him feel that he had as much responsibility in bringing me up as she had. She used to consult him on every issue concerning me and made him feel important. As a result, he developed a parental concern for me which continues till date! How all this combined affection of my parents and my brother spoiled me is another story! If my brother could find time for my family even after he rose to become the numero uno in the bureaucratic hierarchy and had a family of his own, the credit should go to my mum who could sow the seed of concern and responsibility in him towards my upbringing. 

In the rustic and illiterate families, one can see a marked bias towards male children. But in more affluent and educated families, the bias would be towards daughters. It is a general complaint of most of our girls that their mothers in law show great partiality towards their own daughters. While the first can be explained as possibly due to the expectation that the son would eventually be the future bread winner of the family, the role of affluence in the parents developing greater affinity for daughters is difficult to understand. Most of the cases of the mil-dil hostility are a result of the mil’s bias towards her daughter/s. 

All forms of sibling rivalry can only be traced to the prejudices of the parents. Even mild leaning towards a particular child could cause a great trauma in the less favoured child. The parents may not be indulging in such unequal treatment deliberately but even then it can cause a great complex. I have seen parents comparing their children with each other which, according to psychologists, cause greater complex in them than any other reason. 

Marianne Neifert, better known as Dr. Mom, a well known pediatrician, dynamic professional speaker, author, and mother of five grown children, sums it up nicely thus:
Most parents aren’t even aware of how often they compare their children. . . . Comparisons carry the suggestion that specific conditions exist for parental love and acceptance. Thus, even when one child comes out on top in a comparison she is left feeling uneasy about the tenuousness of her position and the possibility of faring less well in the next comparison.