Sibling Rivalries: What Am I Supposed To Do If I Hate My Sister?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sibling rivalry can be defined as a sibling conflict, competition to vie for caregiver attention, or aggressive behavior between siblings. Although rivalry can occur between children, some siblings might experience it as adults and may not know how to proceed or find support. You may feel ashamed of your feelings toward your sibling, which can be exacerbated by media portrayals of sibling relationships as “best friends.”

Family therapy, conflict resolution techniques, or individual counseling may be beneficial in these cases. These and other methods can help us to understand why these feelings come about. 

Why do you hate your sister or brother? The beginning of sibling rivalry

Hating your sibling is an awful feeling - learn what you can do

According to child specialists Alexander K. D. Leung and Lane M. Robson, rivalry can occur between many siblings during childhood. This behavior might occur at a very young age, in some cases as early as two to three years old.

Leungand Robson say, "rivalry may be manifested as a verbal or physical attack, frustration, persistent demands for attention, or as regressive phenomena."

Regressive phenomena in children can include thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, emotional outbursts, baby talk, throwing fits at meals, and other forms of demands for attention. Children might also run to their parents after a sibling argument or lie about a sibling's transgressions or comments. 

The rivalry between adult siblings may include behavior like stonewalling, open aggression, arguments, cruel manipulation, or avoiding each other. Adult children might also vie for a parent's attention through work, accomplishments, or emotional needs.

What causes sibling rivalry?

Sibling rivalry may be caused when a child or adult feels they must compete for their parents' love and attention. This feeling might lead to animosity, which can increase over time. The perception of parental favoritism might manifest early in a child's life, with dire effects if left unaddressed. For example, one study showed that siblings might have better relationships later in life if their parents did not create a culture of favoritism when they were younger.

Children who feel they must compete for their parents’ attention may seek that attention through negative behaviors, such as lying, triangulating conversations, or creating conflicts. These behaviors could cause mental health and behavioral challenges in children and teens and continue to have adverse effects in adulthood.

Researchers at Cornell University studied family dynamics, conducting multiple interviews with mothers and their adult children about the following:

  • Their emotional closeness
  • Excessive arguing or conflict with a specific child
  • The mother's expectations regarding which child will care for her if she becomes disabled or ill

Results demonstrated that only 15% of children felt they were treated equally by their parents compared to their siblings. In cases where the mother assigned a specific child the task of taking care of her, the children in the family showed more significant symptoms of depression. However, the children in the study didn't link their mental health directly to the perceived unequal treatment.

"It doesn't matter whether you are the chosen child or not; the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings," said Dr. Karl Pillemer, a professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell's College of Human Ecology. "The less favored kids may have ill will toward their mother or preferred sibling, and being the favored child brings resentment from one's siblings, as well as the added weight of greater parental expectations."

How to proceed as an adult

If you're an adult and feel resentment or hatred toward your sibling because of favoritism by one or both of your parents, it could be wise to contemplate the source of your ill feelings. Consider what occurred as a child and whether your feelings resulted from your sibling's behavior or how your parents treated you. If you're unsure how to proceed, consider the following techniques. 

Analyze the relationship with your sibling

Think about your relationships with your sibling. Do you feel that you had a better connection as children, or has your rivalry always been an issue? Do you feel that your hatred indicates a lack of love, or are you feeling shame, hostility or anger? Do you have any pleasant memories with your sibling or do feel they have always treated you poorly?

Anger may be a natural response to being subject to ill treatment from your sibling. However, if your sibling rivalry has stemmed more from a family dynamic or pressure from your parents, you may benefit from repairing your relationship with your sibling and re-examining your connection with your parents. 

Although it could be challenging to reconnect with a sibling after many years of conflict, a conversation could open the doors to a better and healthier connection. You might also find that you and your sibling bond over how you grew up and your efforts to try to heal from complex family dynamics. 

If you or your sibling were a child who experienced favoritism, you might find that hostility comes from envy or jealousy. In this situation, you may benefit from learning to accept and process your feelings, possibly through counseling.

Try journaling prompts

If you're struggling to understand how to proceed with your feelings, journaling has been proven to be a healthy way to release challenging emotions and undrrstand yourself more completely. You may realize you want to improve or change your relationships based on your journaling. If you're not sure what to write about, consider the following prompts: 

  • What are five aspects about my relationship with my sibling I feel fortunate for and five aspects I want to change? 
  • Are there any areas of our relationship or personalities that I haven't considered? 
  • How did our family life growing up impact my relationship with my sibling? 
  • Would I forgive them if they apologized to me?
  • Am I avoiding the possibility of being friends with my sibling? 
  • Do I have any attachment-related concerns causing me to feel anger toward my sibling? 
  • Would a relationship with my sibling be healthy, meaningful, and beneficial overall? 
  • What steps would I need to take to feel comfortable repairing conflict with my other family members? 

As you journal, try not to judge the thoughts that come to mind. Write everything down as it comes to you, and then leave it for a few days. Come back to what you wrote with a clear mind, read through your thoughts, and think them over. If you want to further the practice, write a list of 3-5 goals to change the situation you've written about. 

Start a mindfulness practice

Studies show that mindfulness practice can lower attachment-related anxiety and avoidant behaviors. If you are having difficulty feeling attached to family members or coping with certain aspects of your relationships due to your connection with your sibling, consider a self-soothing exercise. To practice, find one activity for each of your five senses: 

  • Sight: Look at an album of photos, wear a beautiful outfit, put on makeup you enjoy, watch a film or TV show, people watch, look outside your window, go to a beautiful natural area, read a book
  • Scent: Light a candle or incense, smell a book, bake pleasant-smelling goods, cook an aromatic dinner with many spices, wash your clothes and sniff them when they are fresh out of the dryer
  • Sound: Listen to your favorite song or spoken word album, listen to a Spotify playlist, play white noise, listen to nature sounds
  • Touch: Wear comfortable pajamas, change your bedsheets, wear slippers, pet your animals, hug someone you love, put on soothing lotion, give yourself a facial, take a bath
  • Taste: Spend some time trying a new dessert, order takeout, eat a healthy snack, try a new food

Consider when it may be time to end a relationship 

In some cases, working hard to heal family relationships may feel too challenging. If your family is treating you unkindly, disrespecting your boundaries, or acting with anger most of the time you interact, it may signify an unhealthy relationship. In these cases, it can be healthy to get some distance or even consider cutting contact. 

Mental Health America defines a dysfunctional family as a family where conflict, misbehavior, or abuse is present. If you're struggling to decide whether certain relationships or friendships are unhealthy, you might also consider family or individual therapy to discuss your options. 

If you believe that you may have a mental health condition relating to your family dynamics, you may want to consult a licensed clinical psychologist. Basic information on sibling rivalry and family relationships is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat

Try family therapy 

Family therapy may allow you and your siblings a safe and therapeutic location to discuss your rivalry, conflict, or any hurts from your life together. A therapist is a neutral mediator that can monitor your conversation without judgment or favoritism. In some cases, individuals might also bring their parents. However, if you don't feel an entire group session would be beneficial, you can attend with just your sibling. 

Hating your sibling is an awful feeling - learn what you can do

Individual counseling 

Individual counseling may also benefit you if you feel your family relationships are affecting your peace of mind or ability to function. If you face barriers to treatment, such as a busy career or difficulty finding time to commute, you can also try online counseling. Research has found that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy. Whether you want to talk about your siblings, work on coping strategies for family gatherings, or want a space to be yourself, a therapist can help you find a healthy resolution. You can also chat with a specialist about any relationships, even if they don’t have to do with your family. That includes a relationship with a partner or interpersonal issues you are having with colleagues at work.

You can choose between video, phone, and live chat sessions with online counseling. If you're interested in signing up, platforms like BetterHelp offer direct connection to a growing database of counselors specializing in various topics, including family rivalry and trauma.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.


Relationships between siblings can be complex. If you hate your sibling, consider reflecting on why you feel that way, having an open conversation, or trying family therapy. You can also reach out to an individual therapist to discuss your concerns further and receive personalized guidance before you attempt a conversation with your sibling.
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