Violent sibling rivalry is a common theme in literature and mythology. Cain murdered Abel in the first book of the bible. Rome was founded after Romulus murdered his brother Remus. Shakespeare’s King Lear features a sister killing. Scar plotted against Mufasa in the Lion King. There are countless historical examples as well: Cleopatra had her sister put to death, for example.
Oceans of ink are spilled writing about bullying and combatting abuse at school. Sophisticated agencies exist to prevent children being abused by their parents. And yet, sibling abuse goes largely unrecognized; many people are shocked to hear the previous statistics. Others dismiss the statistics as exaggerating normal, healthy roughhousing.
One of the causes of sibling abuse is a competition for parent’s favor. The children fight, belittle, and lie about each other to win their parents’ admiration. Is it possible that our single-minded focus on self-esteem, along with the idea that self-esteem is built by praise, is causing this most common of abuses?