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Sisters Are Good For You!

Forget sibling rivalry and the life-long damage caused by parents who play favorites with their children.  A new study finds that while having a brother or sister can be a good thing, having a female sibling can be particularly great.  But only if everybody plays nice.

After studying nearly one hundred families in which at least one child was between the ages of 10 and 14, researchers from Brigham Young University found that having siblings does more for a child than give him someone to argue with over who gets the last slice of pizza.  The researchers found that, regardless of age, gender or how many years separated siblings, they have the power to influence each other in positive ways.

Having a loving and affectionate brother or sister, they say, makes one more kind and generous. But if you want somebody to talk with about emotional stuff, you are better off with a sister. Because girls are more likely to take on a caregiver role, they come in handy when a kid needs to talk about problems or feelings.   A loving sister, they say, can actually protect a young teen “from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful.”

But here’s the catch:  While the study found that siblings of either gender have twice as much influence on each other than a parent when it comes to being kind and generous, a bad sibling relationship can have the opposite effect.  Siblings who are hostile to one another are more likely to exhibit that same behavior in other relationships.

This means that if you’ve got more than one child, it would behoove you to make sibling harmony a priority.  But do you?  I know so many parents who don’t.  Their kids argue, fight and are generally awful to each other all day, every day. And while these parents clearly don’t like the situation, they seem to accept it as part and parcel of having multiple children.

As someone who has never raised more than one child at a time, I am certainly no expert on the subject of parenting siblings.  But my own mother made it clear to all three of her children that we were to be nice to each other or else.  “Or else” usually involved solitary confinement and time to think about what we’d done.  For her, having her children get along and be decent to each other was a priority.  Is it a priority for you?

Image: Ken Wilcox/Flickr

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