Donald Trump and his siblings were expected to be high achievers by their father, real estate mogul Frederick Trump Sr., and were groomed for success: Donald is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate and runs the family real estate business; Donald’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry is an accomplished federal judge; brother Robert is a high-ranking Trump executive; and sister Elizabeth is a banking executive.
But Donald’s big brother, Frederick (Freddy) Trump Jr., was considered a disappointment. He didn’t have the drive of his siblings and wasn’t happy joining the family real estate business, which was expected of him. Freddy, eight years older than Donald, struggled under the pressure to succeed and the criticism of his “perfectionist” father, according to a recent story published in the New York Times.
Donald told the Times that Freddy “was caught sort of in the middle as somebody who didn’t really love [the family business], and only because he didn’t really love it, he wasn’t particularly good at it,” he said. “My father had great confidence in me, which maybe even put [more] pressure on Fred.”
While favorite son Donald was motivated by his father’s criticism, it had the opposite effect on Freddy, who began drinking heavily. Friends said that Freddy had a “miserable” experience working in the family business. When Trump was asked whether that might have contributed to Freddy’s heavy drinking, Trump said: “I hope not. I hope not.”
Freddy eventually left the family business to pursue his love of flying, landing a job with Trans World Airlines and eventually got married and had a child. But his drinking continued to escalate, and he died at age 43 in 1981 from alcoholism. But the family discord continued; when Fred Sr. died in 1999, Freddy’s heirs were cut out of the will, which Donald had helped draft, according to the Times.
When there are significant differences in siblings, as there were between Freddy and Donald, those differences often become magnified in a family dynamic, notes Stephen Bank, PhD, co-author of The Sibling Bond and an adjunct professor of psychology at Wesleyan University. “It’s called deviation amplification — there’s a multiplier effect of how different they are,” Bank tells Yahoo Parenting.
Donald Trump with this father, Fred Sr. (Photo: New York Daily News via Getty Images)
The trouble starts when it’s obvious that the parents are disappointed in the “less achieving” child. “If the parents’ disappointment is not modified by wisdom and compassion and by looking for the unique strengths of the child that is not achieving, that is going to be a very unhappy situation,” Bank says. “That child, young adult or older adult may feel ashamed, a failure, angry. Or they may just accept the label that’s been put on him or her, that they’re unworthy.”
Siblings are often aware of this family dynamic, and while the favorite child may bask in his or her parents’ attention, he or she may also want to help change things but not know how. “It doesn’t mean that the more successful child doesn’t feel compassion for his or her sibling,” Bank says. “Sometimes the favorite one is very much aware of the favoritism that’s been in the family and doesn’t feel very good about being the favorite. It’s unusual, but the favorite child may see the parents’ mistake [in how their sibling is being treated] and are unable to correct them.”
Bank points out that siblings can help each other. “They can show kindness and reach out to the less successful sibling,” says Bank. He recommends that parents focus on each child’s individual strengths rather than expecting them to conform to a single idea of success. “Loving the child for his uniqueness is sometimes challenging,” Bank says. “Parents have to have a big picture and not have a narrow window for what they consider to be achievement.”
(Top photo: Instagram/RealDonaldTrump)