A sibling is one of two or more individuals having one or both parents in common. A full sibling is a first-degree relative. A male sibling is a brother, and a female sibling is a sister. In most societies throughout the world, siblings often grow up together, thereby facilitating the development of strong emotional bonds. The emotional bond between siblings is often complicated and is influenced by factors such as parental treatment, birth order, personality, and personal experiences outside the family.
There are two types of twins: identical and fraternal. Identical twins have exactly the same genes; fraternal twins are no more similar than regular siblings. Often, twins with a close relationship will develop a twin language from infanthood, a language only shared and understood between the two. Studies suggest that identical twins appear to display more twin talk than fraternal twins. At about 3 years of age, twin talk usually ends.
Half-siblings are people who share one parent. They may share the same mother but different fathers (in which case they are known as uterine siblings or maternal half-brothers/half-sisters), or they may have the same father but different mothers (in which case, they are known as agnate siblings or paternal half-brothers/half-sisters. In law, the term consanguine is used in place of agnate). They share only one parent instead of two as full siblings do and are on average 25% related.
In this case, a woman has children with two men who are father and son, or a man has children with two women who are mother and daughter. These children will be three-quarter siblings. Furthermore, the two offspring will have an aunt/uncle-nephew/niece relation. An historical example of this is actress Gloria Grahame. She bore children with her second husband Nicholas Ray, and her fourth husband Anthony Ray, who was Nicholas Ray's son by another marriage.
Birth order is commonly believed in pop psychology and popular culture to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development and personality. For example, firstborns are seen as conservative and high achieving, middle children as natural mediators, and youngest children as charming and outgoing. Despite its lasting presence in the public domain, studies have failed to consistently produce clear, valid, and compelling findings. Therefore, it has honed the title of a pseudo-psychology amongst the scientific psychological community.
In 1996, interest in the science behind birth order was re-sparked when Frank Sulloway’s book Born To Rebel was published. In this book, Sulloway argues that firstborns are more conscientious, more socially dominant, less agreeable, and less open to new ideas compared to later-borns. While being seemingly empirical and academic, as many studies are cited throughout the book, it is still often criticized as a biased and incomplete account of the whole picture of siblings and birth order. Because it is a novel, the research and theories proposed throughout were not criticized and peer-reviewed by other academics before its release. Literature reviews that have examined many studies and attempted to control for confounding variables tend to find minimal effects for birth order on personality. In her review of the scientific literature, Judith Rich Harris suggests that birth order effects may exist within the context of the family of origin, but that they are not enduring aspects of personality.
Sibling rivalry usually starts right after, or before, the arrival of the second child. While siblings will still love each other, it is not uncommon for them to bicker and be malicious to each other. Children are sensitive from the age of 1 year to differences in parental treatment and by 3 years they have a sophisticated grasp of family rules and can evaluate themselves in relation to their siblings. Sibling rivalry often continues throughout childhood and can be very frustrating and stressful to parents. One study found that the age group 10–15 reported the highest level of competition between siblings. Sibling rivalry can continue into adulthood and sibling relationships can change dramatically over the years. Approximately one-third of adults describe their relationship with siblings as rivalrous or distant. However, rivalry often lessens over time and at least 80% of siblings over age 60 enjoy close ties.
Children are more jealous of the interactions between newborns and their mothers than they are with newborns and their fathers. This is logical as up until the birth of the infant, the first-born child had the mother as his or her primary care-giver all to his or herself. Some research has suggested that children display less jealous reactions over father-newborn interactions because fathers tend to punish negative emotion and are less tolerant than mothers of clinginess and visible distress, although this is hard to generalize.