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Jealousy as an Emotional Reaction in the Child

  • Post category:Emotions
  • Reading time:24 mins read

What Is Jealousy?

Jealousy is a complex emotion. Descartes has already established that its basis is fear – “In connection with the desire to keep something in its possession”. Gesell A. Jealousy finds in the jealousy together with fear also these emotions: anger, pain, self-pity, depression and anxiety. Ribot T.: The psychology of the emotions, believes that the essence of jealousy is the feeling of discomfort at the thought of losing a loved one, and hatred and anger towards the cause of that deprivation.

What Causes Jealousy in a Child?

A child becomes jealous when it feels deprived of something in relation to its brothers or other children, when it thinks that the environment loves it less and that it is constantly neglected. There is almost no child which occasionally does not feel jealous of a brother or sister, of another at play, in kindergarten or at school. But children’s jealousy can erupt with very different intensities. It is only important for the further development of a young person when there is an intense and constant trait in the child’s behavior, the basic characteristic of its attitude towards another child or towards the people around it in general.

How Jealousy Affects a Child’s Personality?

Jealousy leaves a deep mark on the child’s personality and gives a stamp to its behavior in adulthood. Extremely jealous children often develop into adults who are always envious of everyone, feel threatened in their prestige and neglected in every environment, or are aggressive in advance towards everyone they come in contact with, even when they know nothing about that person. Such individuals very easily come into conflict with other people and in relation to them often imitate their jealous reactions within the family or some children’s collective, even though they are now in a completely different environment.

Why Is Jealousy More Common in Girls Than in Boys?

Jealousy is more common in girls than in boys. This is understandable given the fact that parents and other educators still give male children an advantage over female ones. The boy is greeted with more joy at birth. It is allowed various ventures, games, and forms of entertainment that are forbidden to the girl. Boys are usually subject to less strict rules of decency and morality than their female peers. Many parents give more value to the activities of male children, give more recognition to their successes and expect more from them. These are all reasons why many girls feel more neglected than their brothers and feel less loved than them. This evokes in them a sense of inferiority that drives them to a hostile attitude towards the privileged brother and towards the parents who neglect the daughter.

Why Does Jealousy Appear More Often in the First-Born Child?

Jealousy is much more common in the behavior of the first-born child than in the behavior of younger children. This is because parents very rarely prepare their first child for the birth of a second. If the first child is not more than 2 to 3 years old, it will be difficult to accept the birth of a younger brother or sister in a realistic way. Not realizing what it is really about, astonished by the sudden appearance of a new family member, it is likely to experience an emotional shock. For technical reasons, parents will deal more with the newborn than with the older child, and with this it will – not realizing the objective need to do so – gain the belief that parents now love it less. And that will trigger an emotion of jealousy in it. In this way, one can interpret Foster, Ross, and Sewall’s observation that an older child most often becomes jealous if it gets “competitors” in the family between the ages of 18 and 42 months. An older child is more likely to become jealous if the younger one is a boy rather than a girl. This is not difficult to understand when one considers the propensity of many parents to give preference to a male child over a female.

Why Older Children Are Jealous of the Younger Ones?

When the third, fourth, etc. child in the family is born, jealousy is more common in older children. This only happens when the parents really show much more love for the newborn than for the other children. Then it is only natural that it will feel deprived of parental love so it will rightly react in an aggressive way. In such a situation, jealousy occurs regardless of the order of the child in the family. Parents sometimes give an older child an advantage over a younger one, in which case the younger one will become jealous.

What Are the Most Common Reasons of Jealousy in an Older Child Towards the Younger One?

Sometimes it happens that parents are really less interested in the older child, less concerned with it and less gentle towards it when their younger one is born. Or even openly show that they love it less. So a father says to his daughter when his son is born, “I don’t need you anymore, I have a son now.” In this case, the child has a very objective reason to be jealous. But it often becomes jealous for subjective reasons. A child may feel deprived of parental love even when they love it as much as the younger child, they are just as attentive to it and make no difference between the children in any way. But even in such a case, the older child will react with jealousy if it has become accustomed to a privileged position in the family. If its parents spoiled it while it was the only one, the older child feels threatened when its brother or sister is born. It sees in them a rival for parental affection, so out of fear for its prestige, it takes a hostile attitude towards the newcomer in the family.

When Does Jealousy Appear in the Older Child Towards the Younger One?

The jealousy of an older child of the young does not have to manifest immediately after the birth of the younger. Sometimes it occurs a few years later. This is usually due to a change in the parent’s attitude towards the children, or the older child notices that the younger one is developing better than it. If one child is physically strong and healthy, and the other stunted or defective, if one is intelligent, enterprising, and capable in every way, and the other is less gifted, passive, and timid, it is very likely that jealousy will be manifested in the behavior of the other.

How the Older Child Manifests Its Jealousy Towards the Younger One?

Manifestations of child jealousy are very different. Aggression is common, according to the “competitor”. Thus, a 3-year-old girl constantly demands from her mother to “sell” her brothers, to “hand it over to the strangers”, to “throw it out”. Another child of the same age tried to turn its younger sister out of the cradle, and once it wanted to hit her with a stick.

What Are Other Forms of Manifestation of Jealousy in the Older Child Towards the Younger Child?

Jealousy is also manifested in the fact that one child constantly teases another, annoys it, or bothers it in meeting physiological needs. A typical example is a 5-year-old girl who demonstratively started knocking on the door of an apartment when her brother was born. She preferred to do this when the child was asleep. There are children who show jealousy by constantly telling on their brothers to their parents, taking away toys, or destroying their belongings.

Why Are Older Children Jealous of Their Parents?

When jealous, the child is not only dissatisfied with the presence of another in the family, but also with the parents. Since it is considered deprived of their love, it tries to take revenge on them. That is why it becomes disobedient, defiant, insolent. Sometimes it raises its hand on its parents, insults them with derogatory names, tries to do what makes them angry or sad, and refuses to do what might make them happy. Sometimes a jealous child becomes depressed, withdraws into itself, is grumpy and harsh towards the environment. In some cases, it takes out its aggression on other children, on those weaker than itself, or on animals. It sometimes extends its defiance of its parents to its teachers. In addition, it neglects learning, becomes distracted, careless, and undisciplined in school, or even runs away from school and home and indulges in vagrancy.

How Jealousy Towards a Younger Child Unnaturally Changes the Older Child’s Behavior?

There is also the opposite reaction to the feeling that the older child has threatened the prestige of the younger one. Then, for example, the older one tries with all its might to keep its position as the firstborn and push the younger ones out of the hearts of its parents. In this case, the older child becomes an “exemplary” child. It is now becoming exactly what the parents want most: obedient, polite, diligent. By identifying with its parents to the utmost, it begins to act like an old man. In this way, it tries to please its parents as much as possible and prove to them that it is more valuable than another child. Parents sometimes fall for such behavior of a jealous child because they do not see its motivation. Then they start praising it in the presence of “competitors”, and they recommend that the other child imitate its sibling. But that’s the best way for another child to become jealous now. Because children do not tolerate comparison with an exemplary “child; it develops in them a sense of their own immaturity and inferiority, so they become aggressive.

What Kind of Neurosis in a Child Can Cause Its Jealousy?

It often happens that a child expresses jealousy with some neurosis. So a 5-year-old boy inadvertently began to urinate in his panties when his sister was born. An 8-year-old reacted to the same event with a stutter. And a 9-year-old girl got bedwetting when she got two twin brothers that she had to look after when their parents were out.

What Are the Symptoms of Regression in an Older Child Due to Jealousy Towards the Younger One?

Jealousy of an older child towards a younger one can also be manifested in the way that symptoms of regression appear, i.e. unconscious return to an earlier level of psychophysical development. Then the child, who is already speaking quite clearly, begins to stutter again; or a child who has already learned to fully control the sphincters in its sleep begins again to urinate in bed. A jealous child likes to identify with the newborn, so it asks the mother to breastfeed it, wants to drink from a bottle again, shows a desire to be put in a diaper and the like. In this way, the older child expresses its aspiration to be again a small child with whom the parents will deal in the same way as they deal with the newborn. In other cases, children lose their appetite for psychogenic reasons, start vomiting, suffer from night terrors, or some other neurosis.

What Are the Neurosis Symptoms of an Older Child Due to Jealousy Towards the Younger One?

These are all unconscious attempts by a jealous child to make the environment more interested in itself, to employ it, to force it to pay more attention, or to be gentle towards itself. The same motive governs children’s behavior when they become intrusive, when they constantly intrude on adults, when they always want to be with them or start behaving in an artificial way, so they start to act, grimace, twitch certain muscles (tics) and the like.

How Punishments for Jealous Outbursts Can Cause a Mental Disorder in a Child’s Psyche?

Parents often fall prey to the jealous behavior of the child. It is most often insulted and punished for its outbursts, aggression and defiance. Then the child becomes even more convinced that they do not love it, so its jealousy of its brother or sister increases. In this case, it is likely that the child will develop into an increasingly severe neurotic, and perhaps into a psychopathic personality.

How Indulgence Because of Jealous Outbursts Can Cause a Mental Disorder in a Child’s Psyche?

Neurotic disorders in a child’s jealousy sometimes lead parents to a particular indulgence towards it. Then they pamper it, surround it with sentimentality and an atmosphere of illness. In such a situation, the child unconsciously fixates on its neurotic symptoms because with them it achieves the goal it is striving for, i.e. greater attention to its environment or special benefits for itself. This is why the neurotic disorders are worsened and with treatment, they are difficult to remove because the child is not motivated to leave them. Later, an adult neurasthenic often develops who constantly suffers from the feeling that he is physically ill, looks for signs of any disease with special attention, and reluctantly receives the knowledge that it is physically completely healthy.

How Favoring One Child Leads to Jealousy in Other Children?

If an individual child has a privileged position in a children’s collective, kindergarten, school or children’s home, if educators deal with it more if they praise or reward it more often, if they show more emotional warmth towards it, other children will become jealous of it. This happens especially often if all members of such a children’s collective are hungry for love because they are raised in a more or less cold and emotionally disinterested way. That is why the wards of children’s homes, who have never felt true parental love, are unusually prone to jealousy if they notice the slightest sign of attention to another child in their educators.

What Are the Consequences of Favoring One Child Over Others?

Teachers often have a favorite child in the classroom to whom they are more lenient than to other pupils. It is natural for this to provoke envy, jealousy, and then the hidden or open rebellion of other children. One day, this gross pedagogical mistake will be avenged on the teacher by the fact that the pupils will be disobedient, defiant, and undisciplined, and in another case, in that way, the students will show passive resistance towards them. Then they will be completely uninterested in studying and will not learn anything.

What Are the Consequences of Always Blaming the Same Child?

In the class collectives, along with the teachers’ favorite child, there are also such children who they especially hate. These are the so-called “the usual culprits”, children who are always to blame for everything in the classroom: and for every offense someone commits, they are suspected of every theft in the classroom, they are accused of being ringleaders of every rebellion against the teacher, or they are constantly embarrassed, neglected, even mocked. It is natural that such a child must become jealous of its peers. This will not only discourage it from school and learning but will also make it significantly more difficult for it to adapt to peers and work with them. It is very difficult for a man to approach other people if he feels that they do not consider him equal to themselves, if he has experienced shame, humiliation, and severe reproaches in front of them. Then he prefers to withdraw into himself, envelops himself in envy, hatred, fear, and malice, and shows open or covert aggressive behavior towards the people around him.

Why Is a Spoiled Child More Prone to Jealousy?

Spoiled children are very prone to jealousy as well. They are accustomed to always and everywhere being the center of someone else’s attention, to be admired by everyone, to be praised even when they don’t deserve it, and to be served in everything. Such children do not tolerate competitors; neither in the family, nor in the school, nor in any human group. If another child appears with them, they become jealous because they begin to fear for their privileged position in the family. Their jealousy takes on even more momentum if their competitor shows more ability in something or the environment starts to deal with it more. Then the psyche of the spoiled child is seized by panic-fear, because it is too passive, independent, and insecure to be able to fight for its prestige and compete constructively with the child it is jealous of. In such cases, the most severe forms of jealousy appear.

How a Child Becomes Jealous of Adults?

A child is not jealous only of other children. It can also be jealous of adults. This form of jealousy most often occurs when a child lives alone with the mother for a while, and she remarries one day. If the mother has tied the child too close to her, it is likely that it will feel deprived of the mother’s love when she bonds with a man. Of course, the child’s jealousy in such a case will be even stronger if the mother, in parallel with entering into a new sexual relationship, really neglects her child.

Can the Jealousy of the Older Child Towards the Younger One Be Prevented?

Children’s jealousy can be prevented. One should beware of cuddling, serving, and excessive attachment of the first child. It is necessary to prepare it for the birth of a brother and sister. This can best be done by repeatedly telling the child that they will get a brother, a future friend. It is useful to show the child a newborn so that it has a realistic idea of ​​what the new family member will look like. It needs to be told that the little creature will be helpless at first, so everyone in the house will be busy with it, as well as the older child. Everyone is looking forward to the little newcomer, they will love it, and the older child will have the opportunity to show how much smarter and more capable it is than a newborn. It will help its parents in caring for the newborn and will increasingly relieve them of parental care, as they will only teach their little brother or sister a lot.

How Can Giving Assignments Prevent the Jealousy of the Older Child Towards the Younger Child?

When another child is born, what was promised to the older child should be fulfilled. It should be given the opportunity to stand out in helping its parents as often as possible. It will watch over the brother while the mother prepares the meal for him, it will hold the laundry while it changes its clothes, it will bring soap, a towel or water while bathing, and the like. Parents will not skimp on recognitions but will tell the child as often as possible their satisfaction with its help and emphasize the value of its actions. To the older child, the younger one should serve as a means of self-affirmation in the family circle. Then there is no reason to be jealous.

How Equal Treatment of Children Prevents Jealousy Among Them?

When there are already two children in the family, or there are more of them, the parents are obliged to treat them in an equally warm way, without making any difference between them, even when the children are of different sexes. Any comparison of children should be avoided. It is wrong to set one child as a role model to the other. This will not encourage the child to more positive behavior, but will make it jealous. In the children’s collective, educators must not have pets or emotional stepchildren. They must treat the children with equal sympathy, and justice should be encouraged through recognition, rewards and punishments. When they forbid something to one child, they should forbid it to another in the same situation; when they acknowledge the success of one, they are obliged to acknowledge the success of the other, and if one child is punished for a crime, they should punish the other child equally for the same mistake.

How to Prevent Jealousy in a Child With a Flaw?

If a jealous child suffers from a lack of appearance or a physical defect, it is necessary to encourage it to activate in as many different areas in which it can achieve success, stand out and even surpass its peers. In doing so, it should be constantly encouraged by acknowledging its success and expressing confidence in the possibility of its progress.

How to Alleviate Already Developed Jealousy in Child?

When jealousy has already appeared, you should look for the causes and remove or alleviate them as much as possible. Let the educators deal with the jealous child as much as possible, let them give it the opportunity to stand out in front of them as often as possible. Such a child should be shown full confidence, it should show its affection and interest in its personal characteristics, interests and abilities as often as possible.

How the Older Child’s Mentor Role Prevents Jealousy?

The jealousy of the older child towards the younger can be successfully suppressed by entrusting the older person with the role of a mentor towards the younger. This means that parents will call for greater maturity and a richer experience of the older child, so they will occasionally ask it to supervise or teach the younger brother or sister something. When an older child completes the task well entrusted to it, it should be acknowledged with praise, expressions of satisfaction with its success, and re-emphasizing its greater maturity.

Finding itself in the role of a mentor, the child is motivated to treat its younger brother in a positive way, because it does not want to lose the trust of its parents and deprive itself of the opportunity to strengthen its prestige. Wanting to stand out, attract the attention of educators, and gain their recognition, a jealous child reluctantly accepts their suggestions to show greater knowledge, skill, or dexterity than the brother it is jealous of. As soon as this serves as a means of its own affirmation, the child unconsciously changes its emotional attitude towards him. To continue to be aggressive toward a brother would now mean contradicting oneself and encouraging the parents to truly become distrustful of the jealous child. The road to success is regularly sympathetic. That is why a jealous child begins to accept its brother in a positive way as soon as it is given the opportunity to use it to secure greater affection from the educator.

How to Prevent the Child’s Jealousy Towards the Mother’s New Sexual Partner?

A child’s jealousy of the mother’s new sexual partner can be prevented if the mother tries not to make the child too dependent on herself while alone with him. At the same time, it is necessary for the “new dad” to treat it in a fatherly way from the first day of living with the child. He should take care of the child, play with it, bring it small gifts, be kind, cheerful and well-meaning with it. The mother must be careful not to neglect the child and to deal with it to the same extent as before. In addition, she should occasionally allow the child to participate in her tenderness towards her partner and let her emphasize their mutual emotional connection as often as possible.

It is important that the child does not feel excluded from its mother’s new emotional connection. It must experience that its mother did not stop loving it when she fell in love with a man and that this man loves and accepts the child as its real father. It is a mistake for some men to think that they do not have the right to treat someone else’s child as their own. A child needs an adult man who it will emotionally experience as a father. It doesn’t matter if it’s the father or someone else. It is important that this man behaves like a father in the psychological sense of the word, i.e. that he accepts the child and deals with it in an emotionally warm way. If he does not do so, if he stays away from the child and does not actively engage in its upbringing, the child will emotionally reject him, will be distrustful, timid, or aggressive towards him, regardless of whether it is its physical father or not. And it will be jealous of its mother’s love for that man.