PSYCH ARTICLE

sibling love

Team Sibling! Why Siblings Who Are Friends Are Happier

Positive sibling relationships create positive other relationships

Hap: Remind your sibling of a funny childhood moment.

"Positive sibling relationships are linked to all kinds of positive adjustment, including improved peer and romantic relationship quality, academic adjustment and success, and positive well-being and mental health," says Mark Feinberg, research professor in the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.

"By encouraging siblings to feel like they're part of a team, and by giving them tools to discuss and resolve issues, parents can help their kids develop more positive relationships with each other, which can benefit everyone in the family," says Feinberg.

Feinberg, Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, and colleagues created a program called SIBlings Are Special (SIBS) to improve sibling and family relationships just prior to older siblings' transition to middle school, which often is marked by increased exposure to and involvement in risky behaviors. They recently completed a study of 174 families taking part in SIBS or being in a control condition.

"We found that the siblings who were exposed to the program showed more self-control and social confidence; performed better in school, according to their teachers; and showed fewer internalizing problems, such as depressive symptoms, than the siblings in the control group," says Feinberg. The program helps parents too.

Examples of ways the program taught siblings and parents to interact include: "if the kids are fighting over what television channel to watch or whose turn it is, we might suggest that a parent not resolve the issue for them, but instead give them just enough help so that they can calmly discuss and resolve the problem on their own. When siblings come up with their own solutions, they may be more likely to use those solutions again in the future."

By giving siblings responsibility and respect, parents create healthy relationships between their children and between themselves and their children. These healthy relationships create happier individuals and family units.

Image: Two siblings at college together, living two floors apart in the dorms, who have always been best friends.

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