The Lasting Advantages of Siblings

For those of us with siblings -- I'm the youngest of three -- it's perhaps not too surprising to read about the benefits of having brothers and sisters. Who else could ever know you as well, for better or worse?  But according to a new study done at Ohio State University, an unexpected advantage of siblings is a decreased likelihood of getting divorced as a grownup. Have more than one sibling? Your chances of divorce will fall even lower -- with each sibling up to seven, the study found that the probability of divorce fell by two percent.

Why would having more siblings decrease the probability of a divorce? Perhaps those years of squabbles and resolutions teach a lesson that it's possible to still love someone deeply and wholeheartedly even when there are disagreements and frustrations. Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, a co-author of the study, speculates that "growing up with siblings provides opportunities to develop those kinds of skills, like conflict negotiation, that helps us form and sustain meaningful relationships into adulthood" while also cautioning that having a sibling is of course not that only factor that leads to divorce. As one of my coworker points out, several of her mom's many siblings are divorced -- having a brother or sister is not a magic solution for future relationships.

My soon-to-be husband, a younger sibling himself, is firmly convinced that siblings are essential for developing social skills and coping abilities, and when we talk about family planning, it's always children -- and not an only child -- that we're hoping to have. What do you think: Did your early years with a brother or sister help you develop the relationship skills that you still put to work in your marriage today? And when you think about family planning, do you keep the benefits of siblings in mind?

Image of two brothers via Shutterstock

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