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Older Sister Neglected as a Child and Is Now Having a Baby

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My sister, M– is in the middle of me and my brother and I am the youngest. We are all 4 years apart.

Our parents divorced when M– was in her mid-teens. Mom was angry constantly and condescending to my father. My father was wounded, emotional, but my sister would later describe him as “disgustingly weak”.

I remember coming to my sister during this time crying, hoping to share in our sadness about our parents. She reacted resentfully and denied that their divorce had any effect on her. However, she was petulant, had terrible grades, drugs, drank and got arrested a couple times. My parents’ reactions were anger and punishment. One morning my mom dragged my sister by the hair through the hallway and into our van to go to school when she had refused. M– was still in pajamas. My dad was there passively “supporting” my mom’s actions.

These days sometimes M– confides in me and she is so loving. I start to relax and think her reactions will be normal, but then I say something that sets her off and she shuts down emotionally and becomes robotic. When I try to rationally explore what I had said she ends up saying hurtful unfair things. Later denies saying words that I could have recorded coming out of her mouth — so convincingly that I question my sanity. My back-up is that she does this to everyone in our family.
I think one aspect is that she HATES the appearance of weakness. — Hates it in my dad, the men in her life and in herself.

Her relationships, responsibilities and work are constantly failing terribly. I try to help her and it always ends up hurting or inconveniencing me because she’s uncommunicative. On top of it she doesn’t express gratitude. She is consistently late, uncommunicative and then never apologizes. She is AGGRESSIVELY defensive if you express that she hurt you. She acts like a cornered wild animal.

I would have cut her out of my life a long time ago if it weren’t for those times that she is so loving. I understand how my parents’ neglect wounded her so I want to help her where they failed but she can be SO hurtful.

She just announced she’s pregnant with a guy she’s seen for only 3 months. How can I help her and this new baby without losing my mind?

Older Sister Neglected as a Child and Is Now Having a Baby

Answered by on -


It seems like your sister is recapitulating the original trauma in the family with you and your siblings. She is alternating between angry & condescending (like your mother) or wounded and emotional (like your father.) The short version here is that she seems to be doing to you what was done to her. Of course these are just guesses on my part, but this would be one way to explain what is happening.

What you need is a family therapist. Along these lines I have two suggestions. First, I would round-up your other siblings and find a good family therapist in your area. This site may help you find one — or you may find one by looking at the “find help” tab at the top of the page.

Once you and your other siblings have agreed upon the therapist ask your sister if she wants to join in. It is important that she be asked, but whether or not she decides to go — the rest of you go for the therapy.

There are other ways, of course, and my second suggestion is to consult a family therapist on your own and be guided by his or her direction in the matter. This path is the safest and most direct help for you because you will get another expert opinion on the matter before bringing your siblings in.

However, now is the time to get some help. As your sister becomes a mother, the family dynamics are likely to be activated at a deeper level. The initial goal is to help yourself first — so you can best learn how to be effective in your relationship with her.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Older Sister Neglected as a Child and Is Now Having a Baby

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Older Sister Neglected as a Child and Is Now Having a Baby. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 24 Apr 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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