Does Age Difference Affect How Well Siblings Get Along?

Sep 12, 2012
by: emurnin

How does age difference between siblings affect how well they get along? This is a question I have often asked myself, having an older brother. We are pretty close in age, being only 15 months apart. Now that he is away at college, we get along fairly well, but we fought all the time when we were younger and he lived at home. I have friends who have siblings who are quite a bit older or younger than them, and they generally seem to get along better than my brother and I used to. However, I also have friends who have siblings close in age, like me, and they also get along well with them. Were my brother and I just not very "compatible" siblings? Did we just never really want to get along with one another? Or is there really some correlation between the age gap in siblings, and how well they get along with one another in childhood and through adolescence?

There has been a lot of research done about this topic, and many families even try to have children spaced apart a certain way to guarantee that their children will get along. There is not really one clear or easy answer to this question, however. Many psychologists and family doctors say that how well siblings get along depends mainly on their personalities, not how far apart in age they are. There are also other factors to consider such as parenting strategies and children's gender. However, there are also many proponents of the age difference. It has been found that children who are less than two years apart sometimes have more conflict than those spaced further apart. Also, often, the closer in age the siblings are, the more likely it is that there will be ongoing fighting. Kids who are closer in age are more likely to spend time together and to share friends and interests, so there is more opportunity for conflict and rivalry to occur. Furthermore, children who have better-quality relationships in childhood generally have more positive sibling interactions in adolescence and young adulthood, while children who are not as close and experience high levels of conflict in childhood generally do not have good-quality relationships in adolescence or young adulthood. These children can even carry their resentments and anger to old age. However, most people agree that waiting a specific number of years between children will certainly not insure a particular type of sibling relationship.


I can really relate to

Submitted by emerp on Thu, 2012-09-13 10:51.

I can really relate to emurnin's relationship with her brother. I have a sister just a couple of years younger than me, and we fight all the time. It has always seemed to me that my classmates and friends with sibling who are much older, or younger than them always get along and almost never fight.
I think that the gender of the siblings would have a large effect on their relationship, and this coupled with the difference in age could really vary the type of relationship between siblings.

emurnin, I am glad you

Submitted by Nicole Musci on Thu, 2012-09-13 15:53.


I am glad you addressed this question because it is one I have often wondered about myself. I noticed you mentioned your friends with siblings further apart and how that effects their relationship. I have noticed the same thing with some of my friends, but I also have some friends who have siblings close to their age who get along fine, so I never understood exactly what could cause more conflicts between siblings versus less. I myself have two brothers, a twin and a younger brother, and have noticed that I usually get along better with my younger brother versus my twin. I think this is because my younger brother is more easy going and we don't have a chance to get on each others nerves. Whereas with my twin brother we are in the same grade and have some of the same friends therefore more conflict has arisen because we have more things to compete about, such as grades. Im not saying competition is all bad and there are times when being a twin can be advantageous, but it does raise the chances for conflict.

-Nicole M.


Submitted by Ave224 on Mon, 2012-10-01 09:31.

I find it strange that you say that the kids closer in age are more prone to conflict because me and my family seem to be opposite. My sister and I are less than 2 years apart and we get on so so much better than me and my brother that are about 7 years apart. Him and I constantly argue while my sister and I will only occasionally get in fights but they are much worse than the ones with my brother.


Submitted by pneville on Tue, 2012-10-16 16:23.

I really liked your writing, and found it very informative because i have two older siblings of my own. I can see clearly how children closer in age tend to fight more. My sister who is only two years older then I is always getting in fights with me about the most pointless things, while my oldest sister and i tend to get along just fine almost all the time. It famines me how things like this work. good job!

I feel the need to comment on

Submitted by Scott on Wed, 2013-04-10 20:28.

I feel the need to comment on this subject even though it's been awhile since the question was posted. I am the youngest brother in my family and have 3 siblings with my oldest brother being 7 years older than me. I have 2 middle sisters, the oldest one is 5 years older than myself and my youngest sister is 3 years older than me. 

I have to say that I have always been closest to my oldest brother from the very beginning because we always got along well and he was a great brother who was there for me and I formed a bond with him from my youngest memoies of playing together. My 2 sisters were also pretty close and I got along mostly, although I did fight with my younger sister more and I resented her the most growing up. Maybe there is something to do with the closeness of age and getting along; I don't know, but in my case I always thought the world of my big bro. He would do things with me like play ball and we would build things together and he taught me a lot about everything. Just hanging with my big bro I was on top of the world. I looked up to him big time!!

I think it has a lot to do with personalities as my brother is pretty laid back and he was accepting of me from the start and he liked to do things with and me and my oldest sister did as well. My oldest sister helped my mom out a lot and I think in a way she was a second mother in some ways; She is a great sis.

i can think back to when I was 12 and my brother was in college but still living at home. In the summer my brother and I would go camping,fishing and ride dirt bikes and he would do eveything with me. Those summers were magic to me. Doing everything fun w/my big bro meant soooooooo much to me at the time.  I couldn't have been happier because in my eyes my big bro was the best bro ever and I remember some of my friends wanted a brother like mine because he didn't torture me like their older siblings did (other than the occasional wedgie), and he would actually hang out with me and take me places and do stuff with me!  He was my best friend that I could talk to about anything and he still is my best friend to this day and someone I can talk to about anything and feel totally comfortable being around. 

Looking back, I think my siblings were pretty good to me and it's interesting because I saw my oldest 2 sibs differently than my youngest sister. I saw her more as a peer and just in a different way. I know that my older siblings probably saw me different as well. 

Growing up in my family and just being a kid were some of the best times of my life and my big brother was much of the reason for my happiness growing up. I'm thinking that if I was 1 year apart from my brother we probably would have had a different experience and we might have been great friends still but I think we would have been more competitive with each other and maybe I would have thought of my brother a little differently; Maybe as less of an idol and role model and more of a peeer kind of thing, more like the relationship with my youngest sister. I will never know for sure though. I like the way it was and I'm grateful for my siblings and the experience of growing up in my family. 

I get along well with all my siblings now; my oldest sister lives 350 miles away from me but we still keep in touch. My youngest sister is a great mother of 2 and lives 150 miles away from me. 

My brother lives nearby and he is in a relationship but single. He still tries to protect me sometimes, but we are best friends who happen to be brothers which is great. 



Similar to you I am 15 months

Submitted by ntpotts on Wed, 2013-09-25 13:49.

Similar to you I am 15 months apart from my brother except he is younger and I am older. We also bicker, no full on fight a lot. As we have matured we have out grown the full on fighting and enjoy each others company a little bit more. However arguments can still escalate quickly to yelling matches. When i was younger I also yearned for the relationships of my friends and their siblings. Now that I have a better understanding of the world I have come to the conclusion that age is rarely a deciding factor in a the sibling relationship. Rather it is first and foremost personality, as you point out in your post. But there are still ways that siblings with possibly opposing personalities can still develop a healthy relationship, such as spending time with each other, working through arguments logically and with as little intervention as possible by parents, and by maintaining contact even as their lives go on different paths. One question your post leaves unanswered is how does the relationship change as you grow older. I think by focusing own this question as well you would be able to answer the questions you have about your relationship with your brother.