State of the Art: Siblings

Judy Dunn reveals the illuminating perspectives offered by the study of what are, for most people, their longest-lasting relationships.
Most of us grow up with brothers and sisters — the figure is around 80 per cent for people in the UK and the US. And our relationships with our siblings are the longest-lasting we’ll probably have — longer than those with our parents or partners, or with our children. Indeed, towards the end of the lifespan, relations between siblings take on particular importance for many people as sources of support (Cicirelli, 1996). But how far does this relationship influence the way we develop? And why do some siblings get along so well, while others are violently hostile? And why are siblings, who grow up in the same family and share the same parents (and 50 per cent of their genes), nevertheless often strikingly different from one another in personality and adjustment?

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