“They say that no matter how old you become when you are with your siblings, you revert back to childhood.”
The bond between siblings is the strongest bond known to humans. Growing up with them is like having an all-time support system, guide, friend, and accomplice for life. They are the first ones you practice everything on and who teach you fairness, cooperation, kindness, and care. Basically, a sibling is a lens through which you see your childhood!
Sibling relationships are emotionally charged, and defined by strong, uninhibited emotions of a positive, negative, and sometimes ambivalent quality. These relations are often characterised by intimacy.
In fact, this bond between brothers and sisters has also been enquired about in lab settings and various studies have proved how affectionate siblings have positive influences on each other no matter their age, gender, or how many years they are apart. According to research, sisters help teens keep away from depression and are great teachers for each other. Moreover, when relationships between siblings are strained, it impacts the health conditions of people.
On this special day of Rakshabandhan, we bring to you the significance of this special bond, proved by clinical research.
Sisters help siblings through various emotions and experiences
No matter their age, gender, or the amount of time they have spent apart, siblings have a good impact on one another. According to research, having a sister, even a little sister, makes 10-14-year-olds a bit less likely to feel low. A sister protects young teens from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious, and fearful. It doesn’t matter whether the sister was younger or older, or how far apart the siblings were age-wise.
Lead author of the study and professor at Brigham Young University Laura Padilla-Walker also distinguishes between siblings’ and parents’ effects within households. Researchers studied 395 families from Seattle with two or more children. At least one child in each family was between the ages of 10-14.
“Even after you account for parents’ influence, siblings do matter in unique ways,” said Padilla-Walker, who teaches at BYU’s School of Family Life. “They give kids something that parents don’t.”
Brothers mattered, too. According to the study, having a caring sibling of any gender encouraged good deeds, such as helping a neighbour or watching out for other kids at school. In fact, loving siblings fostered charitable attitudes more than loving parents did. The correlation between good deeds and sibling love was twice as significant as the correlation between parenting and good deeds.
Many parents are understandably concerned about the constant squabbling between their children. According to the study, there is a correlation between antagonism and a higher chance of delinquency. However, Padilla-Walker also finds a positive in the data: the conflicts provide kids a chance to practice making up and regaining emotional control—skills that will be useful in the future.
Siblings teach each other about the world
Whether it’s how to throw a ball or put together a puzzle, young children learn a lot from their older siblings. When siblings are left together, teaching occurs naturally and spontaneously. Moreover, both older and younger siblings initiate learning activities and use a variety of instructional techniques during these informal lessons.
These traits were also observed in a lab setting by Professor Nina Howe in a study where she observed how children interact at their home. The study was published in the Journal of Cognition and Development by Concordia University.
Members of the research team attended six 90-minute sessions in the homes of 39 middle-class families in Canada, each of which had two parents who shared household caregiving duties, to document the spontaneous interactions between siblings. Two kids, ages four and six, were present in each family, and the researchers watched and videotaped their interactions.
The kids were urged to play together, but no rules were offered. Everything from how to count to learning how to remove chalk from a blackboard was covered in teaching moments. Usually, the smaller child would seek instructions before the bigger siblings launched into a teaching moment.
While Howe says she anticipated observing some teaching, these occasions happened even more frequently than expected. “Something else that surprised us was what was being taught,” she adds. “Lab experiments often focus on how-to instruction, such as the steps in building a tower of blocks. That’s what we call procedural knowledge, which older children often like to teach.”
But in the natural setting, Howe and her colleagues found that younger children are even more likely to ask their older siblings questions related to conceptual knowledge; for instance, how to tell the difference between a circle and a square or how to distinguish the days of the week.
Howe further suggests that “Parents should see value in providing uninterrupted playtime between their children. Give them the time and space to interact together and have things in the home to promote teaching and learning, both toys and opportunities for kids to be together.”
Such uninterrupted time not only takes advantage of the natural sibling bond but also broadens the ways that children learn. “Sometimes people take the point of view that children only learn by being taught directly by adults, but it is evident that they are also learning from each other,” says Howe.
Strained family relations impact health conditions
If we look at the other end of the spectrum when relationships between siblings or extended family members are stressed, it impacts the health conditions of people. Human beings are social animals, and when their social structure is not aligned, it impacts their health. A study published in the American Psychological Association reiterated this fact.
“We found that family emotional climate had a big effect on overall health, including the development or worsening of chronic conditions such as stroke and headaches over the 20-year span of midlife,” said Sarah B. Woods, PhD, assistant professor of family and community medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Centre and lead author of the study.
The Midlife Development in the U.S. survey, which included a nationally representative sample of adults from 1995 to 2014, yielded data from 2,802 individuals. Data was gathered in three rounds: from 1995 to 1996, 2004 to 2006, and 2013 to 2014. The first round had a 45-year-old participant on average.
The total number of chronic diseases that participants had experienced in the 12 months preceding to each of the three data collecting occasions, such as stroke, headaches, and stomach discomfort, was used to determine their level of health. At the end of each round, participants rated their general health on a scale from excellent to bad.
During the second and third rounds of data collecting, the researchers discovered that greater family connection tension was linked to a higher number of chronic diseases and a lower assessment of health 10 years later.
“Comparatively, we found that greater family support during the second round of data collection in 2004 to 2006 was associated with better health appraisal 10 years later,” said Jacob B. Priest, PhD, assistant professor of education at the University of Iowa and co-author of the study.
Woods and her colleagues said their findings show why physical and mental healthcare providers should consider family relationships when assessing and treating patients.
“For adults who already have a chronic condition, a negative family emotional climate may increase their poor health and conversely, supportive family members may help improve their health outcomes,” Woods said. “This is why I encourage patients to bring supportive family members with them to their doctor’s visits and to create an open dialogue about their health conditions and concerns. Having that support definitely has a significant effect on quality of life and well-being.”
www.sciencedaily.com, Materials provided by Brigham Young University, Concordia University, American Psychological Association.