Understanding Sibling Estrangement, Causes And Symptoms

Sibling estrangement, also known as sibling alienation, refers to the breakdown of relationships between siblings, leading to a lack of communication or outright avoidance of each other.

This phenomenon can arise in families due to various reasons, including unresolved conflicts, personality differences, distance, or life events.

Sibling Estrangement.
Sibling Estrangement.

Similar to family estrangement, sibling estrangement is often associated with disruptive family events such as parental divorce or the death of a family member.

And this can lead to emotional and physical distancing among siblings.

An infographic on sibling estrangement

Contributing causes and symptoms of sibling estrangement

Contributing Causes

Childhood Dynamics

Childhood experiences, such as sibling rivalry and parental favoritism, can significantly influence sibling relationships in adulthood.

Siblings who experienced rivalry, resentment, and conflict as children are more likely to have strained relationships later in life.

Parental favoritism can exacerbate these issues by fueling resentment and escalating conflicts.

Also Read: How Pablo Escobar’s Siblings Were Involved in His Drug Deals: Exploring the Life of the Medellín Cartel Drug Lord

Personality Differences

Sibling estrangement can result from differences in personality, attachment styles, communication preferences, and life experiences.

Individuals with insecure attachment patterns or certain personality traits may be more prone to experiencing alienation from their siblings.

Differences in communication methods and conflict resolution techniques can also contribute to disagreements and estrangement.

Life Events

Major life events such as the death of a parent or sibling, traumatic experiences, or mental health problems can significantly impact sibling relationships.

Trauma or abuse experienced within the family can lead to distrust and insecurity among siblings, contributing to estrangement.

Also Read: DJ Khaled Siblings: Exposing the Family of Music Mogul and The Loud King of Motivation


Poor communication, misunderstandings, and conflicts in communication styles can create barriers that hinder sibling relationships.

In some cases, siblings may avoid communication altogether, leading to a breakdown in their relationship.

Mental Illness/Substance Use

This can be either through one sibling distancing themselves from another who is struggling with addiction or mental illness, or as a coping mechanism for dealing with their own issues.

Genetic Factors

Genetic relatedness and childhood co-residence play a significant role in sibling estrangement.

Full siblings who lived together during childhood are less likely to experience alienation compared to half or step-siblings who had little to no childhood co-residence.

Certain genetic predispositions and heritable disorders may also increase the likelihood of sibling estrangement.


Gradual Reduction in Communication

Sibling alienation may manifest gradually over time, with reduced communication eventually leading to complete avoidance.

Mental Health Issues

Siblings involved in estrangement may struggle with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

Emotional Impact

Alienation from a sibling can cause feelings of loneliness, rejection, and low self-esteem, leading to long-lasting emotional distress.

Childhood and Adolescence

Sibling estrangement during childhood and adolescence can have long-term effects on emotional growth and relationship-building skills.

Factors such as sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, and family conflicts contribute to estrangement during these formative years.

Temporary Phenomenon in Adulthood

Sibling alienation in adulthood may be more temporary, with single episodes occurring more frequently than multiple episodes.

However, vulnerability in sibling relationships tends to increase with age.

Wrapping Up

Understanding the causes and symptoms of sibling estrangement can help individuals navigate and potentially reconcile strained sibling relationships.

Leave a Comment