The Sibling Bond

The Sibling Bond

The Sibling Bond

The Sibling Bond


Fifteen years ago, when The Sibling Bond was first published, the word sibling was almost synonymous with the word rivalry. But Stephen Bank and Michael Kahn changed all that with this pathbreaking book, which provides a rare glimpse into the inner lives of siblings and explores their unique and enduring relationships. Updated with a new introduction by the authors, this anniversary edition shows the sibling relationship as a distinctive emotional, passionate, painful, and solacing power that shapes who we are and who we become. The relationships among brothers and sisters are infinitely varied- a sibling can be one's worst enemy or closest companion. Though their love or hate, envy or compassion, and closeness or rivalry are formed in childhood, these bonds last throughout life, creating character and affecting behavior in numerous situations. Strangely, this profound attachment- second only to the parent-child bond- was rarely studied or understood until recently, perhaps because the feelings siblings have about each other are usually both intense and secret. Bank and Kahn chart this unknown territory, offering a theory of the ways in which siblings attach, create each other's identities, and affect the course of each other's lives. Illustrated with poignant portraits of brothers and sisters in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, this book provides a profound understanding of these complex and enduring relationships, examining the influence of childhood intimacy, parental behavior, family turmoil, birth order, and gender. Based on more than twenty years of research and clinical evidence, The Sibling Bond fifteenth anniversary edition brings fresh insight to important clinical and theoretical issues, including attachment theory, the development of the self, and the emergence of sexual identity. While Bank and Kahn demonstrate the implications of their findings for both individual and family therapy, they also give readers a vivid opportunity to recognize and reflect on their own sibling relationships.


The sibling relationship is life's longest lasting relationship, longer, for the most of us by a quarter of a century, than our ties to our parents. It lasts longer than our relationship with our children, certainly longer than with a spouse, and, with the exception of a few lucky men and women, longer than with a best friend.

When we originally sat down to write this book, more than fifteen years ago, almost no one was talking about, and few people were more than casually interested in, the idea that siblings have a bond. Our research was a wake-up call to psychologists and psychotherapists, as well as to the university researchers who study child and adult development. Our message—that the sibling relationship has a distinctive emotional, passionate, painful, and solacing power which shapes the story of who we are and who we become—that siblings are not minor actors on the stage of human development—has been heard more clearly than we had ever imagined.

Fifteen years ago, the word sibling was almost synonymous with the word rivalry. Today we know that in sibling relationships rivalry rarely stands alone; longing, hero worship, shame, tenderness and feelings of obligation are usually intertwined with rivalry and its emotional cousins envy and jealously. A sibling can be one's worst enemy or sweetest companion.

Fifteen years ago, it was commonly thought that parents were the principal molders of personality. Today we know that siblings are part of a far more complex and mysterious story of how people develop.

Fifteen years ago, people seldom spoke about their deeper feelings when it came to siblings: today they feel much freer to do so.

Fifteen years ago, siblings were studied quickly by researchers who observed groups of children or administered questionnaires to adults. Today we know that the sibling relationship (like other family relationships) can only be under-

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