What Are The Negative Effects Of Comparing Siblings?

    What Are The Negative Effects Of Comparing Siblings?

    Deep down, parents know that each of their children is unique. They may live in the same house, go to the same school, and share the same meals, but their behavior, skills, and personalities can be on the opposite side of the spectrum. One is timid; the other is loud. The older child has excellent grades; the younger is “doing just fine.” As obvious as these differences are, is it okay to verbally compare kids with each other? What are the negative effects of comparing siblings?

    The Possible Negative Effects of Comparing Siblings

    Sometimes, comparisons encourage people to get better. With kids, though, parents have to be careful. Below are the potential negative effects of comparing siblings:

    Comparisons Can Lead To Low Self-Esteem

    Self-esteem is how good you feel about yourself.

    Kids who have self-esteem feel loved and accepted, confident, and proud of what they can do. On the other hand, children with low self-esteem doubt their abilities to do things. Additionally, they often have this feeling that they “are not as good as the others.”

    Making comparisons can reinforce these negative feelings of not being good enough, resulting in damaged self-esteem.

    It Can Affect Parent-Child Relationships

    One of the possible negative effects of comparing siblings is conflict between parent and child.

    In a study titled, Parents’ Social Comparisons of Siblings and Youth Problem Behavior: A Moderated Mediation Model, the researchers noted that siblings being compared with one another often have different views on the treatment they receive from their parents.

    The child the parents think has better behavior reported less parent-youth conflict than their sibling. According to the study, moms and dads tend to be “less reactive” to the minor infractions committed by the child they see as better behaved.

    Comparisons Can Affect Their Academic Performance

    In another report, Parents’ comparisons make siblings different, the investigators found that one of the negative effects of comparing siblings is poorer academic performance.

    The researchers invited families with two children and then asked the parents who they think is the smarter sibling. Results showed that most parents thought the older child to be smarter, even though their grades are similar on average.

    Alarmingly, the parents’ beliefs seemed to affect the child’s future grades. The child who parents think is less smart performed more poorly the following year. The opinion translated to a GPA difference of 0.21.

    The researchers said it doesn’t seem much, but years of comparison can pile up and produce more differences between siblings.

    They also explained that parents might think the older sibling is smarter or more capable because they are doing more complicated tasks at any given time. After all, they learned to read, write, and do math first.

    The Trick to Avoiding Comparisons

    It’s natural for parents to compare their kids. In fact, comparing them is an excellent way to spot problems early on. Case in point: If the older sibling started reading at six years old and the younger sibling still can’t by seven years, parents can immediately seek medical help.

    However, for parents to set up all their children for success, they need to be cautious in vocally comparing their kids. No matter how noticeable their differences are, make it a point to focus on the child and the situation or problem.

    negative effects of comparing siblings

    So, instead of saying, “Your brother’s room is always neat, why can’t you do the same?” say something along the lines of “Why haven’t you cleaned your room yet? Do you need help?”

    Likewise, instead of giving praises like “You always help me with chores, unlike your brother,” consider saying, “Thank you so much for helping me. I really appreciate it!”

    Key Takeaways

    The possible negative effects of comparing siblings include having low self-esteem, damage to the parent-child relationship, and poor academic performance. To avoid comparing siblings, remember to focus on the child and the current situation.

    Learn more about Child Health here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 15, 2022