Yes, they borrow your clothes and use your makeup without asking first, and there’s seemingly no end to the fights over who gets first dibs on the bathroom. You’re familiar with the issues if you have at least one sister, and you probably spent countless hours during childhood and adolescence frustrated beyond all reason.
But hold on, there’s a bright light glimmering at the end of the tunnel.
Research conducted at Brigham Young University shows that having an older or younger sister has positive and long-lasting impacts – particularly on social skills – that stretch far into adulthood.
The study involved nearly 400 families with more than one child, at least one of them between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. The results, published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2010, showed that having a sister promoted positive mental health in their siblings, including a greater capacity to empathize, communicate and – yes – resolve conflicts.
Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in the university’s School of Family Life and the study’s lead author, said even with all the fighting, “as long as they have affection, the positive will win out.”
If siblings get in a fight, they have to regulate emotions. That’s an important skill to learn for later in life.
However much sisters might squabble, it’s an undeniable fact that life is less lonely with a sibling of either gender around. But previous research has shown – no surprise here – that girls talk more than boys, which means having a sister is especially important when it comes to talking out life’s problems.
In fact, the research showed that brothers who grew up with one or more sisters are better at communication with women in general.
In addition, later in life, after the parents have passed away, sisters “often do more to keep families in contact with one another,” said Alex Jensen, a BYU professor and the study’s co-author.
So remember, the next time you find yourself fighting with your sister over one thing or another, it’s just a little bump in the road. You’ll be traveling that road together for the rest of your lives, and you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll always have someone who loves you, who can laugh over childhood memories, and ultimately will make you a better person.
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