Having a sister makes you a better person

The bond between siblings is a powerful thing. As the youngest of five, including 2 sisters, I can tell you that I don’t know where I’d be without my brothers and sisters. Even though we fought like hell at times, I still love them. I’m sure my parents were anxious about the impact of that bickering, but it turns out that my two sisters may in fact have made me a better person. Maybe having two means I’m twice as great! It’s hard to say. But this study is rather compelling.

A 2010 study conducted at Bringham Young University and published in the August, 2010 edition of Journal of Family Psychology found that having a sister helps protect young teens from feeling depressed, lonely, unloved, and myriad other negative feelings.

Sisters can also improve your conflict-resolution skills, help you develop empathy, and teach you to nurture others.

In the study, researchers closely examined 395 Seattle-based families with two or more children, one of whom was age 10 to 14 years old. For children in that age group, having a sister had enormously positive benefits. Sisters are able to provide a unique kind of influence on their siblings – one that parents don’t.

“Even after you account for parents’ influence, siblings do matter in unique ways,” said Padilla-Walker, a teacher at BYU’s School of Family Life. “They give kids something that parents don’t.”

Researchers studied the family dynamic of these 395 families and then followed up one year later. When the information was analyzed, it showed that sisters were emotional protectors of their siblings.

It didn’t seem to matter if the sister was younger or older than the other siblings.

Parents with more than one child probably spend a good amount of time thinking about the dynamic between the two children. Sisters and their siblings may seem to fight a lot and over asinine things, but their relationship is still deeply important, fights notwithstanding. The key, according to Padilla-Walker, is to encourage affection and positivity.

“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.”

Hostility in a family dynamic was found to contribute to a higher risk of deliquency overall, but fighting among siblings can still be healthy. In the data gathered from these families, the fights siblings have gave them an opportunity to learn conflict resolution and to maintain control of their feelings.

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

Knowing this makes me appreciate my sisters all the more. We’re all adults now, but the skills my sisters may have helped me learn are still serving me today and will probably continue to do so for the remainder of my life. I should count myself lucky that I had them.

Conversely, David Lawson, an anthropologist at University College London, found that having older brothers made you more likely to be shorter. So thanks for that, bros.

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