Sibling Love

by Stacey

Although my second son is only six months old, I can already see that a bond has formed between him and his older brother. No one can make that baby laugh like my three-year old jumping up and down on the bed. Take a quick look.

I just learned that this fondness for each other may protect them from becoming depressed later on in life. A landmark study published in this month’s American Journal of Psychiatry found that a close relationship with at least one sibling in childhood lowered the risk for depression in adulthood.

According to a press release issued by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where the study took place, the research lasted 68 years and is one of the longest longitudinal studies of adult psychosocial development ever conducted.

Beginning in their late teens, 229 men were evaluated for the quality of their childhood relationships with siblings, the quality of parenting they received, family history of depression and the occurrence by age 50 of major depression.

Researchers found that even after taking into account the quality of relationship with parents, both poorer relationships with siblings during childhood and a family history of depression independently predicted both the occurrence of major depression and the frequency of use of mood-altering drugs by age 50.

I’m surprised to know that the relationship with the parents was not a factor in predicting future depression. And now I’ll be even more glad to hear my little guy giggling and smiling at his proud older brother. The happiness may last them a lifetime.



Filed under baby, children's health, depression, kids, life, love, psychology, relationships, siblings

6 responses to “Sibling Love

  1. dcslugabed

    Hi Stacey:

    Cute video. Sasha has a great laugh. It seems like recently I keep having conversations with people (adults) who have had recent major falling outs with their siblings–but of course usually the issues resonate with family dynamics that go way back in childhood. Now that I have my own two girls, every time I hear these stories I wonder how to emphasize their natural closeness and lessen the depth of the conflicts as they grow up so the bonds will develop and last a lifetime. Given the amount of adults who have problems with their sibling relationships, I think it is hard to do–but this study shows another way it is worth it to try–

  2. anyone ever read “siblings without rivalry” by adele faber and elaine mazlish? it talks about creating a noncompetitive family climate and helping your kids live peacefully together. my favorite suggestion is to refrain from comparisions, e.g. “why can’t you go to bed by yourself like lily does?” i catch these words before they slip out of my mouth all the time. i also love their other book “how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk”.

  3. I’m sitting here wondering how much parents can influence sibling relationships. On the one hand, either they like each other or not. Sometimes siblings just don’t mesh that well. But I think Kristin makes a good point that parents can try to make the home more or less competitive.

    Growing up my brother and I were very close and my sister and I were less so. We didn’t fight – she was five years older than me and were often in different phases. But now that we’re older we all get along and it’s really great to have them in my life.

    I really liked the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen…I want to read that other one Kristin mentioned.

  4. dcslugabed

    I liked the book Siblings without Rivalry too, and I agree that having read it often helps me catch myself before I compare the girls–although sometimes the comparisons still slip out by mistake. I also read somewhere, I don’t remember where, of a study that showed that kids who were hugged a lot and shown a lot of affection by their parents tended to have better relationships with their siblings. So I try to do that too. Also, I generally buy into the theory that catching them when they’re doing something good and praising them for it is the best form of discipline–not that it always works for me–but I try to apply that to the sibling relationship too, so that when I catch my older daughter being sweet to or playing happily with the baby, I give her lots of verbal praise and encouragement. I can see that it helps her feel invested in cultivating a good relationship with her sister. I’d love to hear other ideas too. I think it’s a day-to-day long term challenge but hopefully all the little steps add up to a long-term positive bond.

  5. yernemesis

    The problem is that the next time, lil bro won’t be amused by simple bouncing. Big bro will be forced to up the ante. You’ll find him bouncing on the bed, while juggling flaming swords and wearing your frippery.

  6. when i was growing up, my dad and his brother were estranged so there was a huge emphasis on my sister and i needing to be friends. sometimes this (now-internalized) pressure actually gets in the way of our adult connection – it’s probably our biggest issue with each other. so i worry about swinging too far in that direction too. in my ideal world, i would be able to create a safe, respectful, noncompetitive space for them to find their real connection to each other, and then we could all just live with whatever it was. in reality, i want them to be best friends forever.

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