Parenting Siblings

Nature vs. Nurture

Two major factors that influence your child's personality and other attributes are nature (genetic factors and heredity) and nurture (experience).


Children have only about a 50-50 chance of developing any particular inherited trait from each parent (physical appearance, personality, intelligence, aptitudes, or health). And even when these traits are present, they can vary.

Researchers have found that siblings tend to be more similar in their physical characteristics than in their likelihood of developing the same diseases. Even in childhood, siblings with similar levels of intelligence may differ in their school achievement, since academic success can be strongly affected by the different life experiences of each child.

While siblings may resemble one another in their intellectual or psychological characteristics early in life, these similarities generally diminish by adulthood.


Nurture (or experience) refers to the nongenetic influences on your child's development. They include:

  • Relationships with siblings, peers, parents, or teachers
  • Social and cultural experiences
  • Illnesses or accidents
  • Nutrition
  • Self-perception
  • Self-expectations

Siblings share some experiences but many others are unique, contributing to differences between children. As children grow, the number of experiences that they go through individually increases, gradually differentiating one sibling from another.

While shared experiences generally contribute toward similarities, even similar experiences may affect each child differently. Siblings can perceive and interpret shared events differently, and these different perceptions can be important in shaping a child's development and self-image.

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