The Struggles of Being an Older Sibling


Annie Spratt

Siblings Walking

Every sibling in a family hierarchy has their own struggles – youngest siblings, middle siblings, and oldest siblings alike. While this is true and every struggle is valid, there is one group out there that just might receive the most pressure and hardship out of all of them: the oldest.

In a lot of cases, such as mine, older siblings usually have their parents to themselves for the first few years of their life. The idea that their parents’ love is unconditional and never-ending is established, and they are content with being an only child until a younger sibling comes along.

Usually it is an exciting thing to finally have a sibling to share your experiences with. You are not alone anymore in the family, but it can also be a difficult transition from being completely alone to now having to share your parents’ love with someone else.

As you get older, though, that is not much of an issue anymore. As you grow and mature, you realize that your fears of you not being the favorite/not being loved are irrational, but more problems present themselves.

Older siblings are, more often than not, burdened with the responsibility of acting like a role model to their younger sibling(s). They are put under a pressure to not misbehave, do bad in school, or do anything their parents do not want their other children doing. It puts a lot of unnecessary stress on them – and, when younger siblings do something to get themselves in trouble, the older siblings have to be scrutinized for not setting a better example.

Additional pressure is added if they ever have to step up as a parental figure – which is more common than you’d think. According to’s article on parentification, “about 1.4 million children and adolescents in the United States experience emotional or instrumental parentification.” Parentification is what happens when a child is expected to take on the responsibilities of a parent, including caring for their little ones. Not every eldest sibling has to deal with this, but it is still a very real thing that leaves long-lasting effects on children.

Eldest children are held to a much higher standard compared to their younger ones, having to be a strong leader, and are pressured to not make mistakes or else their siblings will follow their lead. In certain cases as well, parents’ attention is focused primarily on their younger children, leaving them feeling alone sometimes – just another example of older children being expected to be able to handle much more than they should.

The stress and responsibilities can be very suffocating at times, but that does not take away from the joy of having younger siblings throughout your life. It has been such a big blessing in my life, and despite all of the hardships I have experienced, I would not change a thing.