Stepsibling Rivalry and Bullying in Blended Families

Step Sibling Rivalry Conflict Theory: Tips on How to Stop It

Friends for a moment and then mortal enemies the next; the rivalry between children in families can be tense, especially step sibling rivalry in blended families.

Contrary to parents’ wishes, it’s pretty typical for siblings to fight, argue, and get angry with one another. Parents are aware that these disputes between children will pass and are completely normal most of the time, but in some cases it appears that your children are constantly in a never-ending war. 

What is the difference between “normal sibling rivalry” and an issue that warrants severe anxiety? This article will clarify the reasons behind sibling rivalry and offer tips to parents on the best time to intervene.

What is Sibling Rivalry between step children?

What Is Sibling Rivalry Between Step Children

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sibling rivalry is “a normal part of childhood development.” Sibling rivalry is shared among all children; however, it intensifies during adolescence. Sibling rivalry typically begins around two years old and continues throughout early adulthood. There are many reasons children experience sibling rivalry, including personality differences, temperament, and family changes like the appearance of step siblings.

Step sibling rivalry is characterized by competition over parental attention, affection, and approval. Children who experience intense step-sibling rivalry are more likely to become aggressive toward each other in the future. They also tend to develop negative attitudes toward authority figures such as parents and teachers.

Sibling rivalry between step children can cause physical aggression, verbal abuse, emotional withdrawal, and social isolation. When children are involved in these kinds sibling rivalry, they may:

Disagreements can arise between step siblings due to different personalities, temperaments, interests, and values. These disagreements can lead to short term or even long term conflicts if they are not resolved in time.

7 Tips On How To Deal With Step Siblings Rivalry

There are many ways to deal with step sibling rivalry, and below you’ll find the 7 most important tips do deal with step siblings rivalry: 

  1. Parents should try to resolve disputes before they escalate into physical violence.
  2. Encourage children to discuss their feelings and concerns openly and honestly. This will help prevent future arguments from escalating into physical violence.
  3. Parents should avoid using punishment or threats when dealing with step-sibling rivalry. Instead, they should use positive reinforcement to teach children to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. 
  4. Parents should make sure that children understand respecting others’ property and personal space.
  5. Children should be taught to share toys, clothes, and belongings fairly; parents should emphasize the importance of these things.
  6. Children should learn to express their anger in constructive ways; for instance, they should talk about their frustrations instead of hitting or throwing things and learn to forgive each other if they have hurt each other’s feelings. It is a must to apologize and then demonstrate that they are willing to change their behavior. Otherwise, the whole family could fall apart.
  7. If you feel your child needs counselling, contact a mental health professional, counselling sessions can help children overcome their fears, worries, and anxieties. They can also help them work through their conflicts and gain insight into themselves.

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Step sibling Conflict Theory

Sibling rivalry is common among children, significantly with stepchildren. Many people believe that siblings should get along well because they’re related; however, some siblings may fight because they want more attention and love than others or feel left out. In the case of stepsiblings, the fact that they are not blood-related adds to the conflict. 

The theory behind sibling rivalry is based on the idea that children compete for the same things. When there’s only one parent, it’s easy to see why this happens. However, it becomes much harder to figure out who gets what when two parents are involved. The theory also states that if children feel like they don’t belong in the family, they will rebel against authority figures (parents). That is why parents must treat all their children as equals, so this kind of conflict can be avoided.

The most common way children start a conflict is by showing their jealousy by teasing one another. Teasing includes mean-spirited comments, jokes, and gestures. It usually involves making fun of someone else’s appearance, personality, intelligence, or abilities. Blended family jealousy problems can become serious, if not dealt with quickly.

Another cause of step sibling rivalry is parental favoritism. When parents give some children special privileges and ignore others, it may create resentment among siblings; this is a well-known fact in cases with stepsiblings as well.

Some children become jealous of their step siblings’ success. They may feel left out if their step siblings receive better grades than they do, or they may also resent their step siblings’ popularity at school.

Some children experience envy when they see their step siblings getting more attention than they do.

Factors That Can Influence Conflict Between Siblings and Stepsiblings

Previous studies suggest that gender is one of the influencing factors in sibling-related behaviors. Girls tend to be more cooperative than boys regarding sibling or stepsibling relationships. Boys are more likely to be violent towards their siblings than girls are, with the highest levels of step sibling violence occurring between boys.

Several studies have shown that opposite-gender siblings have less conflict than the same-gender siblings. 

Older sisters often serve as caretakers for younger brothers, and several studies show that sibling relationships between females tend to be closer than those between males. Indeed, same-gender individuals are theoretically in more conflict than opposite-gender siblings because they are more likely to compete for the same resources. 

In addition, some researchers believe that the age difference between siblings plays a role in sibling conflicts. Younger siblings are more likely to get into fights with older siblings because they are usually smaller and weaker, making them easier targets for bullying.

Another critical factor that can cause conflict is when the siblings are not blood-related. Some step-siblings have difficulty integrating into a new family just because the other siblings won’t accept them as a member.

When does a parent need to intervene?

When Does A Parent Need To Intervene

When all conflict between children can be a source of irritation or concern for parents, it’s essential to know when rivalry is transformed into abuse or sibling bullying. First of all, if you have more than two kids and notice that all of your other children regularly gang on one, it is essential to address this.

It is usual for siblings to develop more robust or less friendly relationships with specific family members, like step siblings, especially in blended families. If you notice you have a child who has been the subject of ridicule or physical violence, it is crucial to intervene.

A university study found that siblings who suffer from bullying among siblings frequently have a higher chance of experiencing mental health issues later in life.

How can parents stop stepsibling rivalry?

How Can Parents Stop Stepsibling Rivalry

Parents generally would like it to cease, whatever the reason for sibling squabbles. They often occur in the most inconvenient times, such as in public spaces or when parents are exhausted or under high tension – a sudden, seemingly inexplicably tense disagreement is not something parents want to hear. This is why it’s typically the first instinct of parents to intervene to end the argument. Sometimes, this is the best decision to make. 

  • Parents must establish “ground rules” and be able to communicate clearly and ensure that their children know what is and aren’t acceptable. Establishing clear rules with constant (and appropriate) punishments for violating rules can prevent most serious conflicts. Apply these rules to all children equally, significantly step children to avoid more conflicts.
  • In some cases, if it’s a minor issue and there isn’t any hint of an increase in tension, let your children work it out independently. Experts recommend that settling such disputes can allow children to learn the ability to negotiate and solve problems later on in their lives. Your children need to know that mom or dad is always available to assist them if the situation gets hot, but they must try to resolve the issue independently.
  •  Alongside direct intervention, another vital strategy to cut down on the volume of argument is to make sure that the atmosphere in the home is peaceful. Children imitate their parents’ problem-solving strategies. They’ll do similar things if they witness you resolve conflict through yelling, physical, or arguing. However, they’ll try to emulate that when they watch how you calmly resolve issues by reason, speaking, and cooperating. 
  • Experts recommend that parents be mindful of approaching their issues and adopt the right approach when combating children’s arguments.
  • Younger children, especially primary school-aged children, strongly believe in what is “fair” and react strongly when they believe their treatment is “unfair.” Parents must teach their children how “fair” and “equal” are different. They need to explain that there are times when some children require more attention, food, or help, for example. This could help to decrease jealousy feelings and ensuing arguments. Make sure you balance this extra attention by spending time with your children in the future if you can.
  • Parents can help step siblings to think they are a part of the group rather than being viewed as competition. 

People Also Ask:

What should I do if my kids fight?

When siblings fight, they usually aren’t trying to hurt each other. They’re just acting out. So, the best thing to do is stop the fighting as soon as possible. Remember, it’s essential to teach your children how to behave constructively. It’s also good to talk about why they were upset. This allows you to explain your expectations of them.

How can I help my child who is bullied at school?

Bullying is a severe problem in schools today. Unfortunately, many children feel powerless to stand up against bullies. But, there are things you can do to make your child less vulnerable to bullying:

  1. Talk to him about the problem. Let him know that you care about him and support him no matter what happens.
  2. Teach your child how to protect himself. Show him how to walk away from trouble and get help if he needs it.
  3. Let your child know that you will never tolerate anyone hurting him. If someone hurts him, you will immediately intervene.
  4. Encourage your child to report any bullying incidents to an adult.

How do I deal with my teenager’s mood swings?

Teenagers often have mood swings due to hormonal changes. However, sometimes they also suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. It’s essential to find out whether this is the case before trying to change your teen’s behavior. To determine whether your teen has a mental health condition, ask them about their symptoms. Then, contact your doctor or therapist for advice. You can also seek professional help by contacting a counsellor or psychiatrist.

What can I do to stop my son from lying?

Children lie for many reasons. For example, they may lie to avoid punishment or to gain attention. They may lie to cover up mistakes or to hide secrets. Or, kids may lie simply because they enjoy telling stories. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to teach your child that lying is wrong. The best way to accomplish this goal is to start by explaining to him why lying is wrong. Then, show him how to recognize lies. Finally, model honesty yourself. When you notice that your child is lying, don’t react angrily. Instead, calmly point out the truth. This method works well because it teaches children that lying is unacceptable and adults expect honesty.


Step sibling rivalry could be complicated for both parties involved. As long as you try to understand each other’s feelings and work together to resolve issues, you’ll be able to maintain healthy stepsibling relationships and a happy blended family overall.

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