The bond between brothers and sisters is unique — it is the longest lasting relationship most people have, longer than the parent/child or husband/wife relationship. While the bonds may wax and wane, a person’s lifetime quest for personal identity is undeniably interwoven with his or her siblings.
In early childhood, siblings are constant companions and playmates. Through games and conversations with each other, they learn to interact with the larger community. During adolescence, once-close siblings may temporarily weaken their ties as they exert their individuality and independence.
In adulthood, when they have families of their own, the needs of their families usually take precedence over the relationship with each other, but the sibling ties often emerge stronger during this period. Siblings generally want to share their adult struggles and triumphs with each other.
The cycle of the sibling bond comes full circle when the siblings reach old age, after their parents and spouse may be gone and their children are raising children of their own. The bond between them often intensifies as they once again become each other’s companions, sometimes living together for the remainder of their lives.
This bond exists in children raised in well-adjusted families, but it is even stronger for brothers and sisters from dysfunctional families. They learn very early to depend on and cooperate with each other to cope with their common problems.
Separating siblings in foster care or through adoption adds to their emotional burden. They have already had to cope with the separation and loss of their parents. If they are then separated from their siblings, they must experience the grieving process all over again. For many children, this separation will be even more traumatic because, if they have experienced abuse and/or neglect at the hand of their parents, they will often have stronger ties to each other than to their mother or father.