It’s very common for siblings to fight and it’s not uncommon for sibling to throw a punch or two, but what happens when the fighting becomes hate and aggression towards each other. This form of tension between brothers and sisters is called sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is a type of competition or animosity among brothers and sisters, blood-related or not. This type of competition or animosity can cause a rift in the sibling’s relationship with one another, which can result in a multitude of fight (sometimes physical) and many verbal altercations as well. Sibling rivalry can also cause various problems within a household, including favoritism, divorce, and a house that is emotionally divided.
Stress within the parent’s lives and children’s lives can create more conflict and increase sibling rivalry. Eighty two percent of people in Western countries have at least one sibling, and siblings generally spend more time together during childhood than they do with parents. The sibling bond is often complicated and is influenced by factors such as parental treatment, birth order, personality, and people experiences outside the family. Sibling rivalry is not unique to Western culture and can involve aggression towards one another. Often, sibling rivalry starts before the second child is born and continues as the children mature and compete for everything from toys to attention. Each child in a family competes to define who they are as an individual and wants to show the world that they are separate from their siblings.
Children may often feel they are getting unequal amounts of their parents’ attention, discipline, and responsiveness. Children tend to fight more in families where there is no understanding or boundary set that shows that fighting is not an acceptable way to resolve conflicts, and no alternative ways of handling such conflicting situations. In this conflict assessment we will assess the sibling rivalry of a brother and sister who have had an ongoing issue of animosity towards each other for over fifteen years. Using Wilmot-Hocker’s conflict assessment guide, we will be able to understand each aspect of the conflict and possibly come to a common ground in which they (the siblings) will be able to get along in a more long-term manner.
Through this conflict assessment the siblings will be able to explore the possible solutions to assist in resolving this issue in a sensible manner. The two subjects that will be assessed today are DeMarcus (33 years old) and Danett (25 years old). They are blood related siblings and share the same parents. They’ve been living in consistent animosity of each other for over fifteen years and they continue to fight (physically) and argue.
Their parents are tired of this frequent quarrel between them, and the parents feel like the conflict is driving a wedge into their household. The two siblings, now that they are adults, can see the toll their quarrel has caused, within their relationships with others (personal and intimate) outside of their family and also within the frame of their intermediate family.
Nature of the Conflict
From prior questions asked to the subjects, there are a various number of triggering events that have cause this particular conflict. Numerous acts of belittlement, hatred, physical violence, neglect, bullying, abuse, and threats over the years have escalated this conflict out of control. DeMarcus states that the conflict began when Danett was born and he expressed his dyer need, want and concern for a younger brother. DeMarcus states that Danett has always been an over achiever that has always captured the attention, no matter if the attention was good or bad, of their parents. Danett’s personal concerns and issues became more alarming when she expressed her feelings on why her issue or animosity towards her brother was so strong: “When I was younger, I lived in the shadow of my older brother.
Any activity that my brother was in, I wanted to participate in as well. I was basically the tag-a-long little sister, until I turned the age of ten, then things began to change a bit. One day DeMarcus and his best friend where playing a game and I was in another room. When my brother finished the game with his friend he left to go use the bathroom, leaving his friend unattended. His friend, at that time, got up and came into the room that I was in and began to fondle me. My brother came back to the room to see his friend was gone and decided to search around the house for him.
When DeMarcus came into the room I was screaming, “Stop! Stop it!” But instead of DeMarcus trying to get his so-called best friend off of me, he sat and watched as I fought to get away from his teenage friend.” “Later that night when our mother picked us up, I whispered to her that I needed to talk to her about something important and my mother told her that we would discuss it when they got home in private. As soon as we arrived home, I began to tell her mother what happened and immediately she called DeMarcus into the room to question him about the events that took place. DeMarcus stood in my mother’s face and called me a liar and said that it never happened. I was crushed and didn’t know if my mother believed me and I felt abandoned in a sense.”
Danett continued to express her concerns of hurt, worthlessness, embarrassment and betrayal, and that her relationship with her brother became a downward spiral of abuse and deceit. When asking DeMarcus about the events that took place, he claimed that he had no recollection of this ever happening, but quickly interject with the comment, “If she was a boy then that wouldn’t have happened to her!” Danett explains that this is always DeMarcus’ negative attitude towards her, and that these comments always are the heated beginning of a fist fight between them.
Argument is “reason giving” (Benoit 1992; Rowland and Barge 1991) one makes claims and backs them up (Keough 1992). DeMarcus, in order to maintain innocence from accusation, begins to belittle Danett in order to get his innocence across to whoever is listening. The arguer tries to get others to “recognize the rightness” of his or her beliefs or actions (Benoit 1983, 550). Interpersonal argumentation, then, has a place in our everyday conflicts and negotiations (Trapp 1981, 1989).
Orientation to the Conflict
The attitudes expressed in the conflict are ones of deceit, regret, close mindedness, unhappiness and a loss of self-esteem. In many ethnic household certain issues are swept under the rug and never discussed causing suppressed feelings and hidden issues. Danett explains: “I would try to discuss the issues I had with my mother. I felt that since she was once a young girl, like me, she would understand where I was coming from with my concerns. My mother was very good at trying to make my problems go away through the acts of prayer and faith.
My mother tried to make me a firm believer in the motto: Let go and let God. Which in translation means: Let your burdens go and let the Lord handle them; no need to stress. My family was very good about trying not to stress over things and trying to sweep problems under the rug or resolve an issue in a timely and quiet manner. Even though the issue was never discussed again, the emotional and mental scars were there and I felt like I could never trust my brother again and I could never come to anyone in my family with any of my problems. My biggest fear was that the acts of faith I was taking through my cultural and religious beliefs were going to make the situation worse and my fear came true.”
A person is supposed to say what he or she means to resolve disagreements through the use of power (as in competition) or by working things out together (collaboration) (Wilson 1992). The problem is that when we are angry, we may exaggerate an offense, seek revenge, and then lead ourselves and others into unproductive and wasteful conflict (Planalp 1999).
DeMarcus expressed: “Danett has always been an over achiever (in sports and academics) and has always captivated the attention of the family. I admit, I always wanted a brother and I say that every day because I don’t understand what others see in her that draws them to her. She makes me feel worthless to others in the family and I treat her how I feel. Thus is why I belittle her and allow things to happen to her because I feel she deserves the treatment I give her.”
DeMarcus, aside for the feelings he bestowed above, made it clear that he wanted to make this situation better with his sister. “I love my sister, don’t get me wrong! At the time, I could understand why I wasn’t treated more like her. I felt unwanted and when I failed in certain areas, she would succeed. This is one of the main problems I have with her. Her ongoing success was acquired during birth and when I was unable to succeed, I started to resent her.
When my plans of “trying to bring her down” didn’t work, I think that when I became more physical and wanted her to be in physical pain as well as emotional.” The noted interest to resolve this issue between the siblings is very evident. They (the siblings) keep maintaining the fact that they not only want to resolve this issue, but they want to better their relationship with one another.
Interest and Goals
The role of each person has in the interaction with others is a form of identity goals, and how one wants to resolve the conflict is process goals. I believe that when you open the lines of communication with your colleagues or relatives, everyone is able to approach the problem respectively, than the parties involved will receive a positive outcome that will allow the parties to further their relationship. The main interest and goals of these two siblings, is to come to an understanding of one another’s feelings in order to function as a family and to decrease the rift between them.
Both of the parties want to accomplish the same goal, in order to alleviate the consistent arguing. Danett and DeMarcus, though they are both adult and live in separate locations of the United States, believe that the alleviation of this conflict between them will bring them closer together and allow their parents a form of relief from the added stress this conflict has caused.
According to (Kritek 1994;90) People using dominance (power or control) for their own needs do so out of fear or insecurity. The ability to control one’s environment, including the behavior of others is power. The siblings are exhibiting a balance of power between each other. Danett’s power over DeMarcus comes from her achievements and her existence on this earth, while DeMarcus’ power comes from his insults, his nonchalant attitude towards his family, and his inability to act like an older brother and allow others to take advantage of his sister mentally and sexually, when she was younger.
Hearing both sides of the situation and understanding the tactics used in each altercation of conflict, the styles exhibited in this conflict are varied. There are threats, which is a commonly used competitive tactic. We rush to use threats because we believe they are effective (Johnson and Ford 1996; Rubin, Pruitt, and Kim 1994). DeMarcus would threaten Danett and in return a fight would escalate, inflicting both a negative cast of physical and mental pain within one another.
This act is also a form of verbal aggressiveness; which is a broader category of communication than threats. Rather than just telling someone what might happen to them, when you use verbal aggression you “attack the self concepts” of other people (Infante and Wigley 1986). These aggressive tactics overlap and become known as bullying. Bullying is “ongoing, persistent badgering, harassment and psychological terrorizing… that demoralizes, dehumanizes and isolates those targeted” (Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, and Alberts 2004, 3; Lutgen-Sandvik, Tracy, and Alberts 2005).
After the massive verbal assaults between the siblings, violence would soon occur between them. Violence is when conflict interactions move beyond threats and verbal aggressiveness, often involving a multitude of physical pain and or danger. These styles are very collective and evolve into one another.
Given all the facts of the conflict, I feel that a third-party intervention should be available for mediation. Meditation is an act of resolving conflict positively between parties using a mediator or third party help. Mediation is defined as a process in which a third-party helps (mediator) to assist in resolving a dispute between two or more parties.
A mediator’s role is to facilitate and assist with the communication efforts of the parties involved and to further their focus on tackling real issues and to help generate a positive or neutral outcome. Mediation in this situation will hopefully bring about a positive change with the attitudes of the siblings. Being able to voice opinions, emotions/ feelings to one another will bridge the gap of the sibling’s ongoing rift. Coming to a solution is the main focus of a mediator.
The mediator is to create a positive yet productive discussion that will allow the parties to express their concerns amongst each other without criticizing either party’s opinion. Sometimes mediation is used to improve relationship amongst parties that have to consistently work with each other or be around each other.
There are many ways to stop the growth of sibling rivalry. Many times it
starts at birth with the parents. As a parent, being able to express equal amounts of affection to your children is needed to eliminate this future dilemma. Also being able to listen to a child’s issues and assist them in any form of conflict, weather in school or at home, will make their conflict resolution skills better. DeMarcus and Danett understand that this issue will not disappear after a few sessions with a mediator and are fully dedicated to resolve this problem.
The conflict, which has been occurring for several years, has not only called for assistance from a mediator, but also a psychiatrist will be needed to assess the permanent mental damage it has caused throughout their lives. The parents should also be involved in these assessments to decrease the stress and tension amongst the entire family. The parents might be able to give further insight into why this bickering has been an ongoing process amongst the two siblings.
Being able to see and address an ongoing issue is a major step within the lives of these siblings. The fact that they understand that this issue has gone too far and has taken a major toll on their lives as individuals, is a break though that should be applauded. Forgiveness and reconciliation are just the first steps needed to carry the torch in this intervention. Forgiveness allows us to restore ourselves and through forgiveness DeMarcus and Danett can begin to bridge the gap that has been a gaping hole in their lives.
Reconciliation will follow as they continue to progress in the resolution of their conflict. Reconciliation will restore them to one another as a result of time; the human desire to transcend injury; the courage to place violation, betrayal, deception, or some other wound in the larger context of additional experience; and perhaps the mysterious effect of what some may call “grace” will assist in the accomplishing of their goal to become civil towards one another.
The parities have generated a wide variety of possible solutions. Further research methods and deep considerable thought into this form of conflict may be needed to further understand the deep rooted nature of this relationship between these two siblings. It is very important to develop and explore as many options as possible when coming to a reasonable solution to a conflict of this magnitude.
An approach to apology and reconciliation has been attempted many times but still the two siblings are back to square one in their conflict. Being able to make authentic apologizes through forgiveness is important in this particular conflict. Through apology, reconciliation can be accomplished in order for each party within this conflict to further a relationship with one another. Through mediation and other acts of mental therapy, these issues can be resolved, but it will take time, full cooperation, and commitment of the parties involved.
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