Life Style

The feeling of injustice in the family: “Siblings are built on accounts”

La Croix: Is the notion of justice important between brothers and sisters?

Nicole Prieur : In the fraternal bond, if something hurts, it is the feeling of injustice. It emerges very early in childhood and continues identically to adulthood. Of course, injustice changes its face, and it is no longer a question of comparing Christmas presents, for example, but the number of times that each other’s children have been taken care of by the grandparents.

How is this need built?

NP: Siblings are built on accounts. If filial love is founded on the gift – because parents give life – brotherly love is built on a perpetual count of what each receives or not from parents. No one escapes this situation because at the birth of the youngest, the oldest always nourishes a feeling of loss, the baby taking part of the parental attention. The youngest, he grows up with a feeling of lack because he did not, by definition, have his parents to himself. From this loss and this lack, flows an incessant count of parental attentions. We cannot escape this existential issue, which goes beyond the emotional quest.

→ INVESTIGATION. Parents: how to be fair to all your children

Thus, children, including in adulthood, have a kind of unconscious calculator. This can lie dormant for a long time, then manifest itself one day, as at the time of inheritance, for example, when the family somehow balances all accounts. There, suddenly, the thousand small inequalities added up over the years can be replayed, whether real or supposed. Because, this accounting is very subjective: give two objects of the same value to two children, one may think: “You give me this vase that you never looked at, because you don’t look at me either.” “

So, is it possible for parents to be fair?

NP: No one can be permanently. There are bound to be mistakes. Also, more than seeking justice, I think we must seek to be right. By that I mean that it is useless to seek full equality, but to respond, in the most appropriate way possible, to the different needs of each child.

This is already not easy, because they are sometimes poorly expressed: some children easily ask their parents, when others never clearly ask for help, for example. Understanding each other therefore sometimes involves groping. If this research is complex, it is important because it nourishes the link. It forces us to be constantly attentive to the needs of each other and to understand that there is nothing fixed, that good relationships are not acquired once and for all, but are built by this attention to the other.


To read, for children

Relations between brothers and sisters: what a story!

The editorial staff of the magazine for 7-11 year olds Astrapi (Bayard, publisher of The cross) deciphers sibling relationships. From comics and concrete situations, children are given keys to better understand why their brothers and sisters amuse them or annoy them so much, depending on the moment. On (free).

To read, for adults

History of siblings, Didier Lett, Ed. from La Martinière, € 12.

Going back to Antiquity, the historian delves into the relations between brothers and sisters up to contemporary times. The richly illustrated book is not reserved for specialists. It borrows from history, mythology, literary works, to show the strength of this link as well as the evolution of the status of each other within the family depending, in particular, on the rank of birth.

To meditate with the family

The parable of the prodigal son.

This text from the Gospel of Luke features a father and his two sons to whom he gives two equal shares of inheritance. One of the sons stays with him and makes this gift fruitful. The other moves away and squanders what he has received. However, when he returns to his father, he welcomes him with open arms, which the other son finds unfair. To read on (free).


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