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Sibling Relationships in Old Age

Sibling Relationships in Old Age

Book Title

Essays in Developmental Psychology


Randall Summers, Charles Golden, Lisa Lashley, & Erica Ailes


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The relationship between siblings is unique among family relationships in that sibling relationships have a dimension of equality. In other words, they do not necessarily share the same obligations toward each other as a married partners or parents and child may, especially in Western cultures. Durkheim (1933) described sibling relationships as a “mechanical” bond rather than an “organic” bond, which would better characterize a complimentary relationship, such as that between married partners or a parent and child. This mechanical bond results in ambivalence and rivalry towards one another during childhood and early adulthood, as siblings are often forced to compete for parental attention and resources, as well as contend with differences in varying levels of privilege and responsibility. However, over the course of the lifetime, and especially in older age, sibling bonds often move towards a less competitive relationship.


competitive relationship, Émile Durkheim, family relationships, mechanical bond, old age, oderorganic bond, parental attention, sibling relationships

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This is one in a collection of essays as part of a project that began as an encyclopedia of developmental psychology coordinated by Dr. Randall Summers. However, for unforeseen reasons, the publisher was no longer in a position to publish the encyclopedia. This project was undertaken so that thousands of hours of work by psychologists would not go wasted. Enjoy these essays and feel free to cite them using the proper format.

Submit suggestions for corrections and topics to goldench@nova.edu.

Sibling Relationships in Old Age