Siblings and Emotional Health
Moms have always known that brotherly and sisterly love is good for kids. Researchers at Brigham Young University agree. In a recent study, the scientists found that kids who have a loving sibling of either gender were more likely to perform good deeds, such as helping a neighbor or watching out for other children at school, than those who didn’t. The scientists found that the link between sibling affection and good deeds was twice as strong as that between parenting and good deeds.
Children with sisters seemed to enjoy a few bonus benefits. The researchers found that having a sister protected adolescents from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful. It didn’t matter whether the sister was younger or older, or the number of years between the siblings’ ages.
As parents, most of us would like to see our children get along well. We tend to worry about sibling squabbles, with good reason. The study found that hostility among siblings was associated with a greater risk of delinquency in adolescence. Minor disagreements and the occasional tussle between siblings seem to be the norm, and they may even serve a purpose. The fights give children a chance to learn important life skills, such as how to reconcile their differences and regain control of their emotions.
While fighting is worrisome, the scientists found that an absence of affection between siblings is even a bigger problem than high levels of conflict. For parents, the researchers concluded, the goal should be to encourage sibling affection early in their children’s lives, since brotherly or sisterly love can offer important benefits, especially in adolescence.