chapter  7
17 Pages

The group as an adaptive attachment

Sibling and peer relationships constitute a profound part of growing up. They influence the character traits that people develop, as well as the capacity for social and emotional understanding, for adjustment and wellbeing. Until recently, sibling relationships have been a relatively neglected area in the psychoanalytic literature. The main emphasis has been on rivalry, envy and jealousy. However, the equation has to include other important aspects such as friendliness, loyalty to each other and ability to form a united front in response to an external threat or discomfort. Sibling and peer experiences provide frequent and ongoing opportunities for children to develop a capacity for empathy (Sanders, 2004, p. 59). Freud mainly wrote about the sibling as a displacement in the relationship with

the mother. In 1917, he stated: “A child who has been put into second place by the birth of a brother or a sister, and who is now for the first time almost isolated from his mother, does not easily forgive her this loss of place” (quoted in Sanders, 2004, p. 56). Bowlby (1969, p. 260) put together a more detailed observation of a young child’s reaction to the presence of a new sibling and linked it to attachment:

In most young children the mere sight of mother holding another baby in her arms is enough to elicit strong attachment behaviour. The older child insists on remaining close to his mother, or on climbing on to her lap. Often he behaves as though he were a baby…. The fact that an older child often reacts in this way even when the mother makes a point of being attentive and responsive suggests that more is involved….