A Like Unlike: Siblings in Childhood and Youth
In the middle class, ideally the child was to be raised in a domestic, morally high-minded setting. Brothers were expected to support and guide sisters; sisters to care for and serve them. Actual experience depended on position among the many siblings. Strong bonds especially grew up between sibling pairs. Groups of siblings created their own codes of behaviour stressing fairness. Elder sisters taught younger siblings evoking devotion, but also resentment. While brothers were assumed to naturally have authority, elder sisters could be dominant. Boys had many years of formal schooling; their sisters were mainly educated at home. In adolescence groups of brothers and sisters engaged together in social and cultural activities and shared friends. Growing up with numerous siblings gave children experience of dealing with authority, favouritism, and competition, but also capacity for insight and empathy. It created a sense of connection, fairness, and group loyalty.
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