Good relationship between siblings reduces risky behaviour

Washington: Parents, take note! Siblings who share a positive relationship have fewer depressive symptoms and are less likely to engage in risky behaviours, a new study of Mexican-origin families in US has found. “Research shows Mexican-origin siblings spend more time with their brothers and sisters than with their parents and their peers during adolescence,” said Sarah Killoren, an assistant professor at University of Missouri in US.

Researchers used in-home interview data from a multi-year study of 246 Mexican-origin families living in the US. The researchers studied pairs of siblings of ages around 12 and 15 at the beginning of the study when researchers assessed the siblings’ relationship qualities.

The researchers examined how siblings’ relationship qualities in adolescence were related to each sibling’s depressive symptoms, risky behaviours and sexual risk behaviours five and eight years later. Older siblings who had positive relationships with their younger siblings had the fewest depressive symptoms and engaged in the lowest levels of risky behaviours.

Overall, siblings with positive relationships engaged in less risky behaviours, whereas siblings with negative relationships engaged in more risky behaviours. Younger siblings who had a negative relationship with an older, opposite-sex sibling had increased sexual risk behaviours, researchers said.

“Siblings who are hostile and negative with one another will use that interaction style with their peers. Most peers won’t respond well to hostility and negativity so these youth may be more likely to hang out with a deviant peer group and, in turn, engage in risky behaviours,” said Killoren.

Parents should encourage their children to spend time with their brothers and sisters, to be positive role models for their siblings and to take care of each other, researchers said.

By instilling those values, parents can encourage positive sibling relationships that children will want to maintain throughout adulthood, Killoren said. “The longest-lasting relationships individuals can have are with their siblings,” Killoren said. “It’s important to develop and maintain close relationships in adolescence because they are important throughout the lifespan, especially after siblings lose parents and spouses,” she said.

All of the sibling pairs Killoren studied had two biological parents and other siblings living in the home. The study appears in the International Journal of Behavioural Development.

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