I’ve always been bummed that I didn’t have a sister. All my friends who have sisters share secrets, go shopping and have such a great time with them, AND having a sister basically means you’ve doubled your wardrobe. Growing up with a brother I was made to play cricket for hours on end, watch Dr Who before it was any good, and enter into regular belching competitions.
What’s not to be jealous of?
And now it turns out that ripped off feeling is entirely justified. A study by the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University has found having a sister can boost the mental health and self esteem of kids aged 10 to 14.
The study was originally published eight years ago, but has been resurrected and circulated around the internet again – most likely by someone’s sister who felt she deserved a bit of recognition.
Professor Laura Padilla-Walker, who teaches at Brigham Young University and led the study, said that, “Even after you account for parents’ influence, siblings do matter in unique ways. They give kids something that parents don’t.”
The study found that people with sisters can “learn how to make up and to regain control of their emotions” – a skill sure to carry those tweens and teens into a healthy adulthood.
This doesn’t mean brothers don’t matter. The study also found having a loving sibling of either gender encouraged children to do good deeds, such as helping a neighbour or other kids at school. The study found that having loving siblings actually has twice the positive effect on charitable attitudes than parents do.
Professor Padilla-Walker said, “For parents, the message is to encourage sibling affection. Once they get to adolescence, it’s going to be a big protective factor.”
If you’re worried about your children’s seemingly endless fighting, as many parents are, there is hope. Although sibling hostility was associated with a greater risk of “delinquency”, Professory Padilla-Walker said there is a bright side to all those arguments. They’re a chance for children to learn how to make up and regain control of their emotions – social skills that will definitely come in handy not only in childhood, but all throughout their lives.
“An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict,” said Professor Padilla-Walker.
As the parent of two girls and a boy, I’m pleased each of my children has the others, and they all enjoy each other’s company and rally around when one is going through a tough time. My eldest is a teen now, and it warms my heart to see the effect her sister and brother have on her. She goes out of her way to be kind, not only to them, but to other children.
Hopefully when my younger son and daughter reach those 10-14 years, they’ll enjoy the resilience that comes with having the love of a sister too.