Have you taken your sibling relationship for granted? Take a closer look at the importance of sibling relationships on your wellbeing.
Out of all the relationships we have, the one that we have with our brothers and sisters is often forgotten, taken for granted or under-rated.
But this bond is one of the most important relationships that we can ever have and attributes to our growth and development from a very early age. It is one of the longest lasting relationships we have and probably the most influential.
Terri Apter, author of The Sister Knot says” The sibling relationship is distinctive in its emotional power and intimacy, and in its heady mix of competitiveness, protectiveness, antagonism and affection.”
When people talk about their siblings, they not only talk about the love and intimacy they share but often then will reminiscence on the fights and quarrels too.
A sibling relationship is often highly charged with both positive and negative interactions and these experiences provide a safe training ground for interactions outside the home.
They form the basis on which children learn how to behave in social settings outside the house and establish long-term social behaviour.
We also spend most of our time with our siblings, more so than with our parents. According to a renowned study conducted by Penn State University in 1996, children spend 33% of their free time with their siblings by the time they are 11 years old.
Other studies show that even adolescents, who are going their own way and have developed other relationships, usually spend 10 hours a week with their siblings. Now that’s quite a bit, considering all the other activities an adolescent is involved in.
The intimate knowledge that siblings share as well as the emotional intensity that goes with these relationships, means that sibling relationships have a great impact on one another’s development and wellbeing while growing up and even later in life.
One of the most influential studies on the importance of sibling relationship was conducted by the Harvard Study of Adult Development. This study tracked 300 men for 75 years since the late 1930’s.
Psychologies write “that 93 percent of the men who were thriving at 65 had been close to a sibling in their early life.
The study also found that poorer relationships with siblings before the age of 20 could be a predictor of depression later in life, suggesting that the longer we can sustain close sibling relationships in adulthood, the more it can benefit and protect us emotionally”.
Our siblings have the greatest influence in developing our skills and shaping our sense of identity. Numerous studies show that our relationship with our siblings not only determines how we relate to the world and the choices we make but has a significant impact on our health and wellbeing too.
So let’s take a look at 5 compelling reasons why your siblings are important.
The bond you share with your siblings is the oldest relationship in your life and lasts longer than the one that you share even with your spouse.
Your brothers and your sisters have grown up with you and perhaps even watched you take your first steps or maybe you have held your little brother’s hand and taught him how to stand.
As you grow older, your siblings continue to teach you about various aspects of life — how to form friendships, how to resolve conflict, how to be brave and mainly they teach you how to be you.
According to a 2010 article for Psych Central, “Parents are better at teaching the social niceties of more formal settings — for example, how to act in public and how not to embarrass oneself at the dinner table.
But siblings are better role models of the more informal behaviors — how to act at school or on the street, or, most important, how to act cool around friends — that constitute the bulk of a child’s everyday experiences.”
As your co-collaborators and co-conspirators, your siblings are not only your confidants but also your role models. Siblings teach you how to relate to your peers and handle long-term and intimate relationships making you better at conversations with the opposite sex.
“It’s no secret that brothers and sisters emulate one another or that the learning flows both up and down the age ladder”, says Jeffrey Kluger author of The New Science of Siblings for Time magazine.
Younger siblings will try and emulate the older ones and the older ones will feel the need to try new things so as not to be left behind if the younger ones have already attempted that thing.
But de-identification takes place when siblings break the mould and don’t follow every single thing that their siblings do.
This helps them develop their own personality and keeps some siblings away from risky behaviour like early pregnancy, drugs, and smoking.
Your siblings have typically grown up with you and experience the same life events – including the mundane and boring, often engaging in a continuous flow of interaction through shared activities.
As such who else can understand what it’s like to grow up in your family, or to understand the irrational arguments your parents have?
Even though your brothers and sisters may have different views and perspectives on these life events, there is a shared understanding which is a close source of comfort and bonding. When you go through traumatic experiences in your life, your siblings are there by your side.
They understand you and know what to say and when to leave you alone. They experience traumatic events with you and they know when to put aside differences and stand by you when it counts.
Your brothers and your sister’s band together, working through the pain with you and often this way, a closer bond develops between siblings.
Sibling support is particularly beneficial and several studies have shown that it buffers children from the disruptive consequences of circumstances such as divorce, domestic violence, and substance abuse.
Dr Jonathan Caspi, an expert on sibling relationship says “Close siblings encourage and provide resources for success” and “Sibling closeness is associated with increased life satisfaction, an important ingredient in economic success.”
They know you better than anybody and sometimes even better than yourself. It is with your siblings that you have often shared life’s journey from a very young age.
They have grown up with you and have experienced all the things you experienced too – childhood illnesses, a divorce of parents, first kiss, heartache from your first break up – and this makes them understand you better than anybody in this world.
You may share differences, but scholars say that it’s the differences that bring siblings closer. It’s the differences that make your connections with your siblings livelier.
And maybe because they have travelled the road of childhood with you, they understand you without passing any judgement. You can be who you are with them.
You know you can always find comfort in your siblings. Judith Dunn, a professor of developmental psychology at King’s College in London says that good sibling relationships can be protective and seem to buffer kids against stressful situations.
Siblings help each other work through painful childhood memories and this relationship can be a source of strength and resilience says Dr. Jonathan Caspi in his book “Sibling Development: Implications for Mental health Practitioners”.
Strong sibling relationships are a great source of help, comfort, and support as you grow older. It is no wonder that older people reminiscence about shared memories drawn from intimacy and familiarity of those experiences which in turn helps extend mortality in a healthy and happy way.
Having a close bond with your sibling is good for your health. And a study conducted by Brigham Young University shows you just that. This study found that close sibling relationship defended against depression better, lowered the risk of delinquency and promoted pro-social behaviour such as kindness and empathy.
Growing up with your brothers and sisters is great for your mental health too. Because you go through life together, you learn through your various interactions with your siblings, whether it is about conflict, social behaviour or love and kindness. This makes you more apt to tackle harder situations in life than those who grow up without siblings.
The importance of sibling relationship is further emphasised as you grow older. Research shows that as you get older, your morale grows when you have siblings.
You are emotionally more secure and even though they may have disagreed with you on many things; your siblings will always be there for you when it counts.
A study conducted in Sweden of people over 80 years old, found that having a close relationship with friends or even children did not increase total life satisfaction as much as feeling close to a sibling did.
So next time take a good look at your siblings and know that they are the ones who know you best. Celebrate this unique and special bond which is like no other relationship that you can ever have with another person.
Share your sibling stories and how significant they are to you. After all sibling relationships are important and they do matter.
Meena is a creative soul who finds inspiration in travel, food and family. She is great with words and loves writing articles, content and copy. Besides that, she reads a lot, loves coffee and can be immensely amused by anything funny.
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