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Adult Sibling Relationships
- Anuradha

Sibling relationships among children, their interaction and rivalry have been subjected to a lot of attention and research. But what about sibling relationships when children grow older? Do these relationships withstand the test of time? 

Sibling relationships are the longest relationships one experiences, in that they last a lifetime - even after parents are no longer around. As children grow up and move on, they get into other relationships such as marriage and have children. This often results in sibling relationships being put on the back-burner. However studies have shown that most adults with siblings admit to having some form of contact with their sibling. The amount of contact was highest between pairs of sisters and lowest between pairs of brothers. Brother-sister pairs fell between the other two groups. Persons who maintained the closest relationships with their siblings were those who have never married.

The nature of sibling relationships varies and can be classified into the following types:

The Intimate

In this relationship the siblings value their relationship more than their marriage and remain very close.

The Congenial

Here the siblings are friends but more importance is given to their marriages, children etc

The Loyal

In this type of relationship family gatherings, marriages etc are the only places that the siblings meet and there is not much interaction other than these occasions. 

The Apathetic

Siblings in this kind of a relationship remain indifferent to each other and rarely have any contact.

The Hostile

Here the siblings resent each other and this could be a continuation of childhood rivalry.

The strongest test of a sibling relationship comes when it involves the care of ageing parents. If the siblings have a close relationship then they tide over the crisis easily, working together to find a solution. For some, a parent's illness may be the first time they really appreciate their brother or sister. However most of the time this situation leads to a breakdown in sibling relationships with the question: "Why should I bear the responsibility alone?" popping up often. Sometimes siblings quarrel over the nature of care given to parents, negligence often leading to a serious strain on an already weak relationship.

However it has been found that as adults age sibling relationships become more important and stronger. Aging adults with a surviving sibling often have a higher morale and a sense of well being than those without one, and more so if the sibling was a sister. This could be attributed to the fact that women by nature are capable of giving a lot more care and affection. 

With life becoming more and more mechanical and with career and money taking highest priority, it is no surprise that the divorce rate is increasing by the day. In this context sibling relationships assume importance as a sibling can prove to be an emotional anchor in times of need. Hence there is no doubt that more effort should be put in to nurture this relationship that so many of us take for granted!

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