Sibling Rivalry? Jana and Jessa Duggar Did Not Have a Great Relationship as Kids

When there are 19 kids in your family, it’s almost guaranteed that some sibling conflicts will arise. While the Duggar family presents a we-all-get-along image on the now-canceled 19 Kids and Counting and its spinoff Counting On, we know things aren’t always so happy behind the scenes. One of the best-documented conflicts in he family was between sister Jana and Jessa Duggar. The two talked about their childhood rivalry in their 2014 book, Growing Up Duggar and in past episodes of their TLC show. 

Jessa thought Jana was bossy 

Duggar siblings sitting on couch
Jessa Duggar, Jinger Duggar, Joy-Anna Duggar, and Jana Duggar | Ida Mae Astute/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Jana is the oldest Duggar daughter, which meant she often took the lead when it came to her younger siblings. That didn’t always sit well with Jessa, who is nearly three years younger than Jana. 

“She would get all of us girls that were younger than her and sit us down and say, ‘I’m going to fix your hair. I’m picking out your outfits. Here’s what we’re going to do today,’” Jessa explained in a 2016 episode of Counting On, according to International Business Times. “I think as I started to get a little bit older, I also had a very strong personality so I would sometimes protest the ideas that she had,” she added.  

Jessa would torment her older sister 

In Growing Up Duggar, Jana and Jessa revealed that Jessa went to great lengths to annoy her older siblings. The two shared a bunk bed, with Jessa sleeping in the bottom bunk. She would kick her older sister’s top bunk in order to get on her nerves. According to Jessa, it was all a way to get attention. 

“I enjoyed irritating my big sister Jana because I thought it was funny to see her response. I knew how to get under her skin! Now I know what I really wanted, deep down, was for her to pay attention to me,” Jessa wrote in the book. 

Jessa’s dealt with the issue by trying to steer clear of her younger sister. 

“I began to simply avoid Jessa whenever I could because it seemed she was always looking for ways to annoy me,” Jana wrote.  

Jana had to give a treasured possession to Jessa 

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Despite Jana’s efforts to ignore her younger sibling, the feud continued. A frustrated Jana — who was about 8 or 9 at the time — went to her mother for help dealing with the situation. Michelle Duggar’s advice to Jana was to shower her sister with kindness. A reluctant Jana decided to give Jessa one of her prized possessions, a pink jewelry box.  

“It was hard to think of giving away one of the most treasured possessions, especially to someone I wasn’t happy with,” Jana wrote in Growing Up Duggar. “I told Jessa I had something to give her. I told her I loved her and handed her my gift.”

Jessa explained she was “speechless” when Jana gave her the gift. “Even though I was only 6, I understood the treasure she was giving me,” she wrote. 

Jana hasn’t forgotten the incident 

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Though the jewelry box incident happened years ago, it deeply affected Jana. That was made clear when she talked about it during an episode of Counting On, as reported by In Touch Weekly

“It wasn’t Jessa’s birthday, it wasn’t…anything, it was a random day, and I was just saying, you know…” she said, beginning to cry, “There are people that may hurt us, there are people that may have done things to us, and that…it is our responsibility to forgive,” she added.

These days, Jessa and Jana seem to have put their feud behind them. But based on Jana’s tearful recollection of having to give away her jewelry box, it’s hard not to wonder if there is still some bad blood between them.