Siblings Have As Much Effect On Children As Parents?

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

Siblings can teach each other how to be "cool." Credit: jupiterimages

If the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, it also doesn't fall very far from the other apples.

Translation: Brothers and sisters have as much effect on people as their parents.

A group of researchers concluded that after spending 13 years following 28 pairs of siblings -- beginning when the oldest child was between 3 and 5, and the parents were expecting a second child.

Science Daily reports researchers looked at the quality of the firstborn's relationship with his or her mother during the last trimester of the mother's pregnancy as well as the quality of the child's relationship with a best friend.

Although the mother-child bond was important for the future sibling relationship, Science Daily reports, the child's relationship with a best friend was a stronger predictor of future sibling harmony.

The study was led by Laurie Kramer, a professor of family studies at Illinois University. The results of the study were published in the latest issue of the journal New Directions For Child And Adolescent Development.

Kramer tells the London Daily Mailthe study points out the important role of brothers, sisters and friends in a child's development.

Parents are good role models in formal situations -- demonstrating good table manners and the like. However, kids learn such things as the fine art of being "cool" from siblings, Kramer tells the Mail.

"What we learn from our parents may overlap quite a bit with what we learn from our siblings, but there may be some areas in which they differ significantly," she tells the Mail. "Siblings are better role models of the more informal behaviors that constitute the bulk of a child's everyday experiences."

"They are closer to the social environments that children find themselves in, which is why it's important not to overlook the contributions they make on who we end up being."

Kramer tells the Mail that she hopes the study will lead to a greater understanding why some children develop antisocial behavior.

"We know that having a positive relationship with siblings is related to a whole host of better outcomes for teenagers and adults," she tells the newspaper.

"A lot of current research looks at how children learn undesirable behaviors like smoking, drinking and other delinquent acts from exposure to an older sibling's antisocial behaviors as well as that of their sibling's friends."

Kramer adds developing a better understanding of sibling influences can help people design effective strategies for protecting younger children.

One of the most important things parents can do is promote good relationships between siblings from the very beginning, she tells the Mail.

If children start their relationship with a sibling positively, she adds, "it's more likely to continue positively over time."

Differences in age and gender don't matter. What's important is "a relationship where there is mutual respect, cooperation and the ability to manage problems," she tells the newspaper.

Kramer tells Science Daily children need to know someone is in their corner -- be it a brother, sister or buddy.

"For children, just knowing that someone likes them is validating," she tells Science Daily. "That confidence, and the experience they've gained from participating in a friendship, can really pay off later in life in terms of beneficial relationships with brothers and sisters, friends and other personal relationships."

Related: Preparing the Sibings

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.