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Holidays bring together siblings, or highlight their fractures




There are few people who will know you as long and as deeply as your brother(s) or sister(s), but so many sibling relationships fall apart or even start off without much connection.
There are few people who will know you as long and as deeply as your brother(s) or sister(s), but so many sibling relationships fall apart or even start off without much connection.
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Social work professor Geoffrey Greif of the University of Maryland has studied a variety of relationship dynamics, but he says the relationship between siblings is one of the most unique and yet least studied in the social sciences.

There are few people who will know you as long and as deeply as your brother(s) or sister(s), but so many sibling relationships fall apart or even start off without much connection.

The influences can be multiple and can include parental interference and favoritism. Even where there is affection and admiration, some old jealousies and resentment might fester. For some siblings, the holidays can force an uncomfortable togetherness.

So, Professor Greif counsels, “To ease the burden, we want to shine a bright star on a more realistic view of sibling relationships as not only affectionate but also as potentially, and acceptably, ambivalent and ambiguous. Too high expectations can tamp down the opportunity for siblings to get to know each other anew as adults.”

How do you get along with your sibling(s)? How has your relationship transformed over the years? How much childhood baggage lurks, if any? What value do you place on having a connection with your brother(s) and/or sister(s)?

Guest:

Geoffrey L. Greif, Ph.D., Professor of Social Work, University of Maryland; Co-author of the newly published book “Adult Sibling Relationships” (Columbia University Press; Dec. 2015)