The term ‘family’ goes beyond the parents and immediate family to include all other relatives such as grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts, etc. Each relative can contribute a lot to the development of a child through a different relationship with him or her. The extended family is like a web structured in a way to offer the best support network to each other and become a centre for trust, safety, growth, and love across generations. It is also a way to maintain tradition and promote respect for inheritance. It is also within a family that the child will establish and cultivate their first relationships with others. Therefore this section of our website is dedicated to the extended family.


If your children are siblings: to reduce their rivalry and help them build strong connection watch this video.

While the child may look upon his adult relatives as figures of respect and as a symbol of authority, they will look at their siblings as their equal and therefore the impact of a sibling on a child’s development is different from that of any other relative.
Siblings promote the child’s own social skills in the world through playing, sharing experiences and enhancing each others understanding of points of view, and even fighting. Whereas parents are there principally to teach and form the child, the sibling is there to experiment life alongside them and therefore learn together about the informal behaviours that also govern everyday living and social interactions. This is particularly evident in children with an older sibling since they are more likely to mimic their behaviour.

Depending on how close they are to each other, they can share and learn from each other’s experiences, but note that just as they can learn to avoid doing certain things it is also very easy for risky habits and behaviours to be encouraged between them. Therefore it is very important to foster a strong healthy relationship between siblings based on respect, cooperation, love, and mutual support, which will last a lifetime – and potentially longer than with any other relative.


Allowing grandparents to be involved in a child’s life is not only significant for the child but for the grandparent as well. For the grandparent it is a pleasure to be with a new generation of the family, to partake in the raising of a child in a new time, and to enjoy it all without the responsibilities of a parent. This however does not mean that they do not contribute with the overall education and raising of the child. It may also be a second chance for them to approach their grandchildren in a way they wish they had done with their own children. In some cases grandparents have even had to bring up their grandchildren due to some circumstance and so they have come to take the role of being a parent again. This is something they do out of pure love for their own kin, but that requires a lot of effort and responsibility once again.

For most children, the relationship with their grandparents is one of the most significant ones within the extended family. A grandparent’s wisdom through all of his life experience is something to be appreciated whenever it is shared. As a matter of fact, in some cultures, the elderly are treated with the upmost respect. They are seen as the wisest family members and responsible for passing on and maintaining the cultural heritage and traditions. Unfortunately, in western societies there is a growing tendency to underestimate the value of what the elderly can contribute to the young generations and vice versa. The joy in the encounter of the old generation with the new is not to be overlooked.

The video on the right proves that some children love their grandparents and have a connection with them. Children from different age groups speak about their grandparents and memories they have created so far with them. In detail, they share what they like doing with them and why they are important to them. Activities include: painting, going to the zoo, speaking about history etc. At the end of the video, based on their experience, the children also say what advice they would give to people who will be soon grandparents .



Uncles and aunts can be of great support to the parents by lending a helping hand and facing the new milestone of parenthood just as they have faced all other milestones while growing up as siblings. When the bond between the aunt/uncle and their sibling is strong, the kind of support they will bring reflects their best-friend kind of relationship and one that is able to enhance both family tradition and responsibility in the child’s life. Such a bond between siblings is a great model for a child when growing up especially if they have a sibling as well.

The impact of aunts and uncles on their nephews and nieces throughout their life is varied depending on how significant the relationship between them is. Nonetheless, they can be a point of reference when it comes to advise about phases in their life or about relationships with other family members and especially with their own siblings. The children can share interests with them that perhaps they don’t share with their other family members.

Aunts and uncles have been known to be particularly influential in the counselling of their nieces in nephews when their parents have divorced and in helping them adjust to their new reality. In such a case one could say that they are there to comfort the child in knowing that despite the separation of their parents, their link and bond with them is not broken as they are and will forever be family.
Although not all relationships between uncles/aunts and their nephews and nieces may be particularly close, an aunt and uncle can be seen as family member that can contribute to the child’s development by being a fusion of a parent-like figure and a friend.

For more information on the topic we suggest you to read: 

Carter A.E., McGoldrick M., Garcia-Preto N. (2011) The Expanded Family Life Cycle: Individual, Family, and Social Perspectives, 4th Edition, London : Pearson Allyn & Bacon

Judy Dunn & Carol Kendrick (1982) Siblings: Love, envy, & understanding, London: Grant McIntyre

Milardo R. M. (2010) The Forgotten Kin: Aunts and Uncles

Milardo M.R. (1988) Families and Social Networks (New Perspectives on the Family)

Milardo M.R. and Duck S. (2000) Families as Relationships

Steel L., Kidd W., Brown A. (2012) The Family, 2nd Edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Philip Barker (2006) Basic Family Therapy, 5th edition, Oxford: Blackwell Pub