Jealousy in Younger Siblings Can Also Exist

We all expect the firstborn to be jealous of the arrival of a sibling. But the younger child may also experience these insecurities, as it's not about the birth order, but about other factors. Learn more about jealousy in younger siblings.
Jealousy in Younger Siblings Can Also Exist

Last update: 20 June, 2021

The relationship between siblings is one of the most special and rewarding relationships that exist. However, it’s possible that misgivings and rivalries may arise at certain times. And, although this is more often the case with the older sibling, jealousy in the younger sibling can also exist.

Although it’s never pleasant to see a child suffer, all parents are prepared for the appearance of jealousy in their first-born child after the arrival of a new sibling. But what happens when it’s the younger sibling who manifests these insecure behaviors?

Jealousy between siblings

Jealousy can manifest itself in different ways in each case, but it’s common for the child to be more irritable or angry. The child may cry more than usual and seem more demanding, dependent, or attached to the parents.

He may also reject his sibling or not address them appropriately. Specifically, when it’s the younger sibling who experiences jealousy, they often try to imitate the older sibling and attempt to achieve the same accomplishments and skills as their older sibling.

Two siblings with their backs to one another, looking angry.

Internally, the trigger for all these behaviors is the fear of losing parental affection and attention. Now, it’s understandable to all of us that the older child fears losing their place to a new family member. But how do we explain the presence of jealousy in younger siblings? The fact is that this feeling doesn’t depend on birth order.

Why does jealousy arise in younger siblings?

Below, we’ll talk about some of the factors that affect the appearance of jealousy in younger siblings.

Evolutionary need

Sibling jealousy is most common between 18 months and five years of age because, during this time, the attachment bond develops and strengthens. Children are totally dependent on their parents, therefore, it’s logical that they fear losing their care and try to make sure to maintain it by all means.

In addition, jealousy will be more frequent the smaller the age difference between the siblings. And this is because their needs will be similar and they’ll require the same from their parents. Two children under the age of two will both need to be breastfed, held, have their diaper changed, etc. And parents may not be able to satisfy both of their needs at the same time.

Family dynamics

At the same time, jealousy in younger siblings is often fueled by certain parental behaviors. It’s common for the older child to have certain privileges and advantages and to be treated in an unequally positive way with respect to the other siblings.

It’s also common for parents to delegate responsibility to the older child and give them certain “power” over the other siblings, which isn’t always welcome. Making comparisons between the two children is also a harmful practice that can trigger rivalries.

Likewise, the educational style of parents also plays an important role. In that sense, both permissiveness and the absence of limits, as well as the lack of affection and care, can awaken in the child a continuous need for affection and an inability to share their space with others.

Two brothers fighting at the table.

Characteristics of the child

Finally, we must consider the child’s temperament. Those infants who are more sensitive, as well as those who are more rigid and have a low tolerance for change and frustration, are more likely to experience this emotion.

Sometimes, it’s not necessary for parents to treat siblings unfairly for jealousy to arise, as it’s a function of the child’s distorted perception. Thus, even increased parental attention won’t be enough.

Can jealousy in the younger sibling be prevented?

Certainly, there’s an evolutionary component to child jealousy. However, the way that families handle jealousy between siblings is of great importance. Therefore, it’s important to avoid making comparisons between children and to be fair in terms of the treatment and privileges that each one receives. It’s important to dedicate sufficient time and attention to each child individually.

An affectionate educational style with consistent limits will also reduce the likelihood of jealousy. But above all, be understanding of the child’s insecurities and validate their feelings. If jealousy persists or generates significant discomfort in your child, then you may need to seek professional advice.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gonzalo, R. R., & de Luna, C. B. (2005). Los celos infantiles. Pediatría Atención Primaria7(27), 53-61.
  • Fernández, A., Gamarra, A., Izal, C., Betelu, M., & Pamplona, E. (2001). LA FAMILIA ANTE LOS CELOS INFANTILES: PAUTAS Y ORIENTACIONES. Recuperado de http://www. clinicajuandeborbon. com/CELOS% 20INFANTILES. pdf.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.