When I was campaigning to have a second child a few years back, I kept telling my husband that I wanted our son to have a built-in, lifelong friend — or at least an ally. I don’t think I was naive about it. I know kids fight, and I know that sibling relationships are complex. But I also know that my own sister is one of the great loves of my life.
So I was heartened when my younger son was born and the older one seemed immediately taken with him, proudly showing off “his” baby. It goes both ways. It’s clear that my boys love each other. But they can also be breathtakingly cruel. Like this morning, when my older son pushed his little brother off his chair and straight onto his head. Or a few days ago, when my younger kid refused to give his pleading brother a hug before bed, cackling like some weird toddler cartoon villain. Their relationship is beautiful and volatile, which makes it confusing as hell.
For more than 30 years, Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University in Boston, has studied sibling conflict. She and her co-researchers are distilling
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