While siblings may fight often, there's no doubt that having a close relationship with your brother or sister can benefit a person throughout the course of their life. Now a new study shows that being close with your sibling can even help a child out if they happen to live with parents who are often fighting.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the University of Notre Dame that appears in Child Development, it was discovered that kids who were close with their siblings exhibited less problems at a younger age as the result of being exposed to conflict at home than those who didn't have a close relationship with their siblings.
“Close and warm sibling relationships can help offset the distress that many kids experience following repeated exposure to interparental conflict,” lead author Patrick T. Davies, a psychology researcher at the University of Rochester in New York, told Reuters.
“Their bond can help offset psychological problems by reducing their stress reaction to the conflict,” he said.
While sibling rivalry and fighting among siblings is common, it's comforting to know that even amid typical sibling behavior children find solace in their brothers or sisters when their parents are fighting.
The study followed 236 students 2007 and 2011 from the ages of 12, 13 and 14. They had at least one non twin sibling and lived with their mother and father. The families were predominantly middle class and most identified as White.
The study found that the children studied who were often witness to their parents fighting exhibited 'greater distressed responses' to conflicts a year later, which in turn predicted mental health issues the following year. But those who had close relationships with their sibling didn't have any mental health issues.
“We should be paying more attention to siblings when mom and dad are in conflict,” Kiaundra Jackson, a licensed family and marriage therapist in Los Angeles, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters. “Kids are very intuitive. They understand what’s going on and feel the negative energy when there are arguments.”
She also said that she hopes “the impact of the study will be that we pay more attention to sibling dynamics so no matter what the trauma they experience they will be able to rely on one another if things get difficult.”
A healthy sibling bond not only fosters a relationship that will last a lifetime between family members, but may also provide a lifeline when times are tough in the house.
Meredith Martin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who coauthored the study commented that a strong sibling bond serves many purposes, Science Daily reported. "Strengthening sibling relationships may not only directly foster children's psychological adjustment, but also offer new approaches to counteracting the risks associated with experiencing hostility and unresolved conflicts between parents."
Do your kids have a strong bond with each other? Or did you find it helpful to have a sibling yourself?