As Families Change, So Do Sibling Relations

By Kaylyn Smith

For most, a sibling is both one’s best friend and biggest headache. But is it the same for those born 10 or more years apart?

Kyle Dupuis, a graduate student at Texas Tech, says it is not. He has five sisters between the ages of 14 and 25, and his relationship with his 10-years-younger sister is different from the one to his older sisters.

“Sam is just a sister that I like to hang out with and take her places because we have that bond,” Dupuis said. “As far as hanging out goes, the only thing that is extremely different, is the social part of going out with my older sisters.”

Dupuis says his oldest sister, 25, treats the youngest one almost as a daughter.

“The rest of the girls all borrow each other’s clothes and talk about girl stuff, but I don’t see Sam and my oldest sister do much of that because the age gap is so large,” he said.

Growing up with a big family has taught Dupuis to be tolerant of others, making college and living with roommates easy for him. He said his siblings are one of the reasons he is easygoing.

Dupuis believes there are pros and cons to having siblings both close and far in age.

“When you’re closer in age, it teaches you how to bond with people, and you and your siblings’ friends all hang out,” he said. “But with the further age gaps, it really taught me to be good with kids.”

Most children around the world have at least one sibling, according to the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. The sibling relationship is viewed as important because it can last longer than any other relationship in one’s lifetime.

Larry Kirk, 64, from Alvin, Texas, had both siblings who were his best friends and others who were practically strangers.

Kirk grew up with five siblings. His older brother was almost two years older, and his younger brother was almost two years younger. The next brother was eight years younger than Kirk. He also had twin siblings who were 17 years younger.

“Naturally when you have a lot of siblings, you have a lot of people to play with,” Kirk said. “Where if you don’t have a lot of siblings, you have to find friends.”

The first three Kirk brothers were the closest in age and the closest of friends—always outside and getting into trouble together.

“I was very close to my brothers, and we were so dedicated and loyal to one another,” Kirk said. “I don’t see anyone being closer than me and my brothers.”

The Kirk brothers.

Kirk’s relationship with his two closest-in-age brothers differed from the one with his three younger siblings.

“My brother who is eight years apart was never as close to me because we didn’t have a childhood together,” Kirk said. “It’s a whole lot different story when you’re growing up as a teenager with a baby in the house.”

Kirk thinks it is easier on parents, both financially and stress-wise, to have fewer children who are far apart in age. He believes it’s more likely to see fewer children with larger age gaps in families with working moms because they don’t have the time to raise many children.

Erin Hale, a mother of two, decided to have her children 16 years apart. She said her daughters have much more of a parent-child than a sibling relationship because of their age difference.

“It was pretty close to having two separate only children,” Hale said. “When my youngest was 2 years old, my oldest was going off to college.”

Hale found it was easier have her children far apart in age because she could focus on each of them individually.

“My youngest daughter is so needy and wants to be with me all the time,” Hale said. “I couldn’t imagine raising two children at the same time because my youngest is so dependent on me.”

Hale said her youngest daughter acts like an only child because she sees her older sister more as a mom or an aunt when she comes home from college. The older daughter babysits and takes her sister on play dates when Hale is busy.

Blake Maness with his younger brother, Bryce.

According to study mode research, U.S. family dynamics have  changed drastically over time because of many mothers’ entry into the workforce.

Blake Maness, a recent college graduate, can relate to having a hard-working mom. His single mom works two jobs and is raising his 11-year-old brother.

“Being 10 years older, I am always taking care of Bryce,” Maness said. “There are a lot of times my mom can’t take him to basketball practice because she has to work, so I am always there when she needs me.”

Maness said he definitely has more of a father or uncle relationship with his younger brother.

“I would say, for the most part, I am more of a father figure in his life,” Maness said. “The days my mom is busy, I do things like cook him dinner, take him to school or basketball, and make sure he has clean clothes for school.”

Maness said he likes knowing he can help his mom.

“The large age gap worked best for my family,” Maness said. “It would have been nice to grow up with a sibling closer in age, but I wouldn’t trade my younger brother for the world.”

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