Adult Sibling Rivalry and Family Dysfunction

Some parental behaviors create ongoing discord among siblings.

Posted Apr 17, 2018

 Zappa Plays Zappa by Marco, CC by 2.o
Source: Flickr: Zappa Plays Zappa by Marco, CC by 2.o

In situations in which adult siblings are continually at one another's throats, the conflicts have often been significantly influenced, either openly or covertly, by the behavior of one or both of the parents over an extended period of time. Such parental behaviors are particularly effective for this purpose if started when the children were very young and have been continued, with minor variations, throughout their lives. 

There are a number of relatively straightforward techniques parents can employ for purposes of creating this behavior in their kids. 

Here are a few common ones; there are undoubtedly a whole lot more.

1. The parent gossips and complains about each sibling behind that sibling's back to the all the rest of the other siblings.

2. The parents make frequent negative comparisons of one sibling with another. For example, they might repeatedly scream, "Why can't you be more like your brother?!?"

3. The parent consistently focuses most of his or her attention and concern on those siblings who are creating repetitive, ongoing problems for themselves - and for everyone else in the family - but pays minimal attention to the siblings who are doing well and who are functioning independently.

4. After they pass away, parents may leave the bulk of their estate to one or two siblings, and much less—or even a pittance—to the rest. This is especially effective if they give almost all the money to the child who is the biggest screwup, or to the ones who did not come over and help take care of them when they were sick or indisposed in some way.

The picture at the top of the post is the late musician Frank Zappa's son Dweezil. Frank’s wife was Gail, who also is also deceased, and he had three other children, son Ahmet and daughters Moon Unit and Diva. A humongous and public family feud recently broke out within this family.

Although there is, of course, no way to be certain from news stories or Twitter wars, the way the feud between the siblings may have been created might possibly be an example of what I'm talking about. 

According to the Los Angeles Times:

 "Frank Zappa’s rich musical and cultural legacy, and which children have a right to profit off it, have recently become the subject of a public and contentious family battle. The children of Frank and Gail Zappa – Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva—were left unequal shares of the Zappa Family Trust, which owns the rights to a massive trove of music and other creative output by the songwriter, filmmaker, and producer—more than 60 albums were released during Zappa’s lifetime and 40 posthumously. Thanks to a decision by their mother, who died in 2015, Ahmet, 42, and his younger sister, Diva, 36, share control of the trust—to the dismay and anger of their two older siblings, Dweezil, 46, and Moon, 48, who received smaller portions."

For more on this interesting family, see: