Having a sister is good for your mental health and makes you happier, scientists say

March 6th, 2019

With apologies to you only children out there, having a sibling appears to inspire good deeds and a charitable attitude.

A study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) found that siblings could have even more of an impact on good behavior than parents.

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Photo by Ana Francisconi from Pexels Source: Photo by Ana Francisconi from Pexels

The research is part of BYU’s Flourishing Families Project. The lead author on the project’s paper is Professor Laura Padilla-Walker from the university’s School of Family Life.

Her 2010 paper in the Journal of Family Psychology reported on a specific part of the project that studied 395 families with more than one child where at least one sibling was between the ages of 10 and 14-years-old.

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Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels Source: Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

Her research team gathered information about each family’s dynamic, then followed up one year later to confirm the results. Then, the scientists did a statistical analysis on the data to see if they could find any patterns. And they did – especially when it came to sisters!

According to the researchers:

“…having a sister protected adolescents from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful.”

The age of the sister and whether she was younger or older made no difference in the findings. So even if your sister is many years older or younger, you’re still more likely to have better mental health than those without one.

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Pexels Source: Pexels

And brothers have a positive impact on their siblings as well. In fact:

“…having a loving sibling of either gender promoted good deeds, such as helping a neighbor or watching out for other kids at school.”

Siblings have more of an influence on charitable behavior than parents. In fact, you’re twice as likely to be influenced by your loving sibling when it comes to doing good deeds than you are by your parents.

“Even after you account for parents’ influence, siblings do matter in unique ways,” said Padilla-Walker. “They give kids something that parents don’t.”

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Now, you might argue with your sibling, but as long as the relationship is not toxic, abusive, or neglectful, the data still stands.

“An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict,” Padilla-Walker said.

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But for those who experience a great deal of hostility when dealing with their siblings, there are behavioral risks. However, as long as it’s limited to the normal range of squabbling, many kids come out far more likely to learn good relationship skills such as the ability to make amends and better emotional control.

“For parents of younger kids, the message is to encourage sibling affection,” said Padilla-Walker. “Once they get to adolescence, it’s going to be a big protective factor.”

But sisters are still key to boosting a sibling’s happiness, especially during adolescence. It’s possible that because girls tend to be more communicative, their siblings get the benefits of more openness and opportunities to talk about their feelings.

Girls also tend to take on the role of caregiver, and while they can certainly cause their own drama, they also tend to be peacemakers that can be helpful in intervening in family drama.

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Sarah Eaton via Pexels Source: Sarah Eaton via Pexels

So if you have a good relationship with your sister, now might be a good time to thank her for making you a more well-adjusted person!

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