Steering Clear of a Sibling Estrangement

Fern Schumer Chapman; Brothers, Sisters, Strangers

Psychology Today, March 29, 2022

Be aware of these 10 risk factors for sibling estrangement.

Family values, judgments, choices

” … The sense that a sibling has rejected the family’s core beliefs may spark estrangement. Those who challenge the family’s values through sexual orientation, interracial marriage, religious conversion, political philosophies, unconventional career or lifestyle choices may find themselves cast out.

Some families simply will not tolerate behaviors that are perceived as deviating from the family identity. “The ‘family myth’ is the presumption that every family member is compatible, possesses the same goals, and loves one another,” explains psychologist Mark Sichel, director of the Addiction Recovery Unit at Hebrew Union College, New York. The author of Healing from Family Rifts, Sichel explains that families may use “we” statements coercively, to assert common values and discourage individual differences.

Political differences

In today’s charged political atmosphere, the smallest offense can shatter a sibling bond made brittle by partisanship. Shared beliefs are built on shared values, and some family foundations have collapsed around sociopolitical cracks. To mask or not to mask, to vax or not to vax, in-person or remote learning: These and other issues rooted in politics have created or deepened fissures in families and sibling relationships.”