This point was reinforced to me when I did an interview on the Today Show about the importance of sibling conflict. Co-host Karl Stefanovic torpedoed in at the end and dismissed everything I was saying as nonsense. He made it clear that his lifelong domination of his younger brother, Peter, is perfectly normal and acceptable. If anything he seemed to be very proud of it.
Interestingly enough, Peter is also a successful journalist, but has nowhere near the popularity – and likely the pay packet – of his brother.
What is striking is the paradox of sibling relationships. People will often tell you that the bond they have with their sibling or siblings is incredibly special. It’s unlike any other relationship they have. It is sacred, special and highly functional. After all, where would the aviation world be without the Wright brothers, the music world without the Jacksons or politics without the Kennedys?
However, it’s not hard to spot plenty of examples of where sibling rivalry and conflict is the source of lifelong, deep-seated hostility and anger. Like those that can’t live without their brother or sister, there are those like music’s Gallagher brothers, who can’t stand the sight of one another and never want to see each other again.
As mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s kids will tell you, sibling relationships can tear families apart. They can also be very costly.
So why is this? Why do some sibling relationships go so well, and yet others so badly? But more importantly, does it actually even matter whether you love or hate your brother or sister? The short answer: yes. And it probably matters far more than we think.
A look at the sibling relationship
The sibling relationship is the longest relationship we have. It typically lasts longer than our relationship with our parents, our romantic partner, children, friends and work colleagues. In developed, Western countries, around 80 per cent of people have a sibling.
Check out a few of The Glow team's favourite celebrity sibling moments on Instagram (Post continues after gallery.)
An example of the power and importance of the sibling relationship is found in a study that showed the strongest predictor of well-being at age 65 among male Harvard alumni was the quality of their sibling relationships during college.
The sibling relationship is best understood as the training ground for life. From the earliest age, our siblings teach us the basics about life: how to share; how to take turns; how to love and nurture; how to reason and solve problems; how to negotiate; how to cope with disappointment; how to get back up after being defeated.
But the influence of siblings goes well beyond learning how to wait for your older brother to finish his turn on the computer before you can have a go. Siblings have a significant impact on key developmental milestones including the acquisition of interpersonal skills, cognitive development and sensitivity, emotional development and adjustment, social understanding, sharing and social skills, and socio-cognitive reasoning skills.