Siblings are good for kids’ social development

Even if your kids seem like they’re bickering all the time, chances are that good things are still happening. Turns out just having a sister around is enough to make little brothers and sisters happier and less likely to get into trouble.

And brothers help, too-sibling affection means more good behavior and less delinquency, says Laura Padilla-Walker, one of the authors of a study on siblings done by the Flourishing Families Project.

The researchers found having a sister protected teens from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious or fearful. It didn’t matter whether the sister was younger or older, or how far apart the siblings were in age. Having a loving sibling of either gender promoted more charitable attitudes and more good deeds.

“It’s important to remind parents to foster positive relationships earlier in childhood,” says Padilla-Walker. “When they get to teen years and when they maybe don’t want to talk to parents, they may talk to siblings.”

Sibling relationships can go both ways, though. When there’s more hostility between siblings, there’s more delinquency. “As long as they have some affection as well, that affection seems to be more strongly related to outcomes. But if all they have is hostility, that can be problematic,” Padilla-Walker says.

“Remember, a certain amount of bickering is normal.”

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