Will your kids get along as adults? | siblings

Siblings by Nicole O'Neil Photography
Siblings by Nicole O'Neil Photography

Siblings by Nicole O'Neil Photography

If you asked your child, “Who is your best friend?”, how would he or she respond? Parents who have kids who are close together in age usually hope that they’ll have a close relationship with one another. My kids wouldn’t name one another as their best friend (without lots of prompting from their parents), but they’re as close as two brothers could be. Will their friendship continue into adulthood? Guess what – it may depend on how they remember their relationships with their parents!

Fortuna and colleagues recruited pairs of siblings (brothers, sisters, and brother-sister pairs) who were between the ages of 18 and 25 in a study published in this month’s issue of Developmental Psychology. Siblings who were dismissing of their relationship with their parents were calm during a problem-solving task with their brother or sister, but their relationships were cool too, with less affection and support in their day-to-day lives. Siblings who were preoccupied with their parental relationships – who may have had unresolved conflicts or who were anxious about their bond – had a hotter connection. They argued with their sib when problem-solving and reported more conflict in their relationships in general. Unfortunately, Fortuna didn’t examine the behaviour of siblings who were securely attached to their parents, but one would expect greater warmth, more support, and lower levels of conflict.

This small study doesn’t give enough evidence to say that your kids’ relationship with you will determine how they get along later in life, but it makes sense. We learn what to expect in relationships from our bond with our parents. If our connection with them is cool and we dismiss the importance of that relationship, then we’re more likely to have cool, dismissing relationships with others as adults. If we’re anxious and preoccupied about our bond – if our parents are unpredictable or inconsistent with us – we worry about our adult relationships and tempers are more likely to get hot when conflict arises.

The bottom line – if you want your kids to be close as they get older, working on your own relationships with them is a good idea. If you are warm and supportive with them, they’ll be more likely to support one another. It comes back to attachment – AGAIN! And the potential benefits of Genuine Parenting may go beyond increasing the likelihood that your kids will be safe and successful, possibly extending to their affection for one another!

Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.

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