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OET skills (Reading) “Sibling rivalry”

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OET skills (Reading) “Sibling rivalry”

Sibling Rivalry

Example of sibling rivalry “Hope enjoyed cooking for her family. On one visit, her sister made miserable comments about everything that Hope had prepared for the dinner. Their father could not bear the insults [towards] his younger daughter’s efforts to organize a family gathering and asked the older sister to apologize or leave. The latter just left, taking her own family with her. That incident marked the beginning of the sibling estrangement.  It took almost 14 years and a fatal cancer diagnosis for the sisters to reconcile.” (Reader’s Digest)
Sibling role expectation vs. reality The average family with more than one child pictures siblings growing up together, engaging in friendly play, wearing matching clothes on outings, the elder sibling defending the younger from bullies and dangers, and being the most genuine of BFFs that it’s possible to imagine ( However, most of us know a family where siblings are no longer close, and everyone directly involved has their own interpretation of what led to it. In truth, there are many reasons why siblings living 24/7 under the same roof would experience a normal level of irritation with one another (Elizabeth Scott). Children are developmentally immature, and their irritations are difficult hide and their actions often not self-regulated.
Causes The attitudes and reactions of young, cohabitating siblings to one another are compounded by multiple factors:

  • Major life changes. Arrival of a new sibling, moving into a new house, divorce of parents, etc.
  • Birth order. Middle children can be jealous of an elder or younger sibling, believing the other is getting special parental attention (and in some families, they are). A recent study shows that for fathers, the last-born daughter is commonly a favorite, while the most common favorite for a mother is the first-born son (The hidden power of siblings: Jeff Kluger at TEDxAsheville).

The latter was true in my family’s case. My elder brother was my Mom’s sweetheart, while I was Daddy’s “princess”. The ravings of my sister confirm that she felt the parental favoritism although it was not shown explicitly in our family.

  • Jealousy of achievement. Feeling badly when witnessing the praise heaped on a sibling and perhaps wishing/doing something to “even the scales.”
  • Absent or poor examples of conflict resolution. Children model their own behavior on one or other parent. They may take note of how their parent(s) deal with conflict, especially if no other example exists.Family dynamics. One child with chronic illness or special needs may demand more attention and the other sibling may feel ignored and this may reinforce their rebellious spirit (Elizabeth Scott).
  • Emotional manipulation. This intentional, lingering form of abuse pits siblings against each other creating harm that can carry on into adulthood.
Astrology & sibling rivalry Even the area of astrology has thrown in a voice in the discussion of sibling rivalry.  Astrology seeks to explain sibling interaction in terms of compatibility of “star sign” characteristics said to be encoded at the time of the birth. If siblings fall into “opposite positions in the stars”, it is postulated that this can lead to quarrels and disputes (Indastro).  Is there any scientific basis for this astrological argument? Defenders of astrology further argue that it not only interprets the course of lives but opens up chances to convert adversities into opportunities (Indastro), including a chance to understand and hence overcome simmering sibling rivalry.
Identity & adult rivalry “Our parents leave us early, our spouse and children come along later. Our siblings are the only ones who are with us for the entire ride.” (The Hidden Power of Siblings: Jeff Kluger at TEDxAsheville). But even though siblings may clash—with covert or overt arguments—several times a year, month, or even a day, the clashing and re-bonding is still something unique that they have with each other, a part of their identity and strength.  So why do some rivalries mature and calm with the passing childhood while some remain raw well in adulthood? Adult sibling estrangement is not always rooted in childhood dynamics. Sometimes other factors play a role. As siblings get older and follow their own personal and professional paths as grown-ups, the estrangement in their relationship can become more robust. Or when parents become grandparents, it may seem that they show more love and attention to one child’s offspring than to the other. Hence, where envy or jealousy already exists, it then becomes amplified or simply solidified.

Help in Preparing for OET

Exercise: Complete each of the sentences, 1-6, with an exact word or short phrase from the text.

Skills: OET Reading A task. (Although the layout here is different, this exercise requires similar techniques to OET Reading A)


  1. Hope’s father had no tolerance for his elder daughter’s ____________________ .
  2. In family settings that follow the norm, it is expected that _______________ siblings take the more responsible role.
  3. Despite assumption, rivalry often starts because children are ________________ ________________ it is tougher for them to moderate their behaviors.
  4. Research on parental favoritism as a contributing factor states that male parents commonly express a special emotional preference towards _________________ _________________ .
  5. A child with persistent ________________ can cause the other sibling to feel disregarded.
  6. Activity of the stars is an area of study that believes certain personal traits are ____________________ into us when we are born.
  7. Throughout the years, disputes between siblings may be obvious or ________________, but the interaction defines who they are.


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Courses to prepare for OET:
Speaking Practice
Listening & Private Coaching
Intensive Writing Course
Listening & Reading Practice Combo

Answers: 1. insults 2. elder     3. developmentally immature    4. last-born   5. illness or special needs    6. encoded    7. covert


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