Having a Sister Can Protect Against Depression

A loving relationship with your sibling is good for your mental health

They may borrow clothes without asking and commandeer the remote control, but siblings are good for your mental health, says a new study from Brigham Young University. And having a sister may be especially helpful.

According to the research published in the Journal of Family Psychology, female siblings protect against depression more than brothers do. The study showed that having a sister kept feelings of loneliness, guilt, self-consciousness and fear at bay. That’s because girls are more likely than boys to talk to each other about their feelings, lead author Laura Padilla-Walker, Ph.D., psychology professor at Brigham Young explained in a statement.

But that doesn’t mean brothers aren’t good for the psyche. The study, which involved 395 families, found that affection between adolescent siblings -- male or female -- helped guard against depression and encouraged kindness and generosity towards others. Hostility between brothers or sisters, on the other hand, was associated with a greater risk of delinquency.

Of course, you shouldn’t worry that kids who are always bickering are headed for juvenile detention. According to Padilla-Walker, kids fight, but as long as there’s love between them, a sibling relationship can teach them how to communicate and relate to others in a compassionate and constructive way. The reason is that brother and sister associations more closely mirror peer relationships than parent-child relationships do. Teaching your children to love and respect each other can help them develop meaningful, fulfilling relationships in the world as they get older.

I didn’t have the best relationship with my big sister, Kara, growing up. We were always stealing each other’s diaries, not because they were fascinating, but because it was the ultimate power play. Then there were the skirmishes: I gave her a bloody nose while wrestling her for the phone and then kicked in her boom box after she threatened to tell on me. But despite all that, I knew she was there for me. And that’s important to understand both as a kid and as an adult. As I said to my fiancé yesterday, after a particularly harrowing therapy session about money, "I’m glad we can have these difficult conversations, and still be okay afterwards." And even more important: I didn’t have to kick his speakers in to get my point across.

Brother, sister, only child? What kind of family did you grow up in? Do you think it helped you become a better person? Chime in below.

Like This? Read These:
- 7 Ways to Strengthen Your Emotional Health
- The Great Depression: 11 Famous Figures Who Battled Mental Illness
- Secrets to a Long, Happy Life

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