New York: Positive relationship with siblings improves mental health and lowers the risk of engaging in risky behaviours during adolescence, suggests new research.
"Individuals learn how to interact with others based on the relationships they have with their siblings," said one of the researchers Sarah Killoren, assistant professor of human development and family science at University of Missouri in the US.
"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," Killoren noted.
The 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 in which the siblings ages were 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.
Younger siblings who had a negative relationship with an older, opposite-sex sibling had increased sexual risk behaviours.
Overall, siblings with positive relationships engaged in less risky behaviours, whereas siblings with negative relationships engaged in more risky behaviours.
The findings suggest that 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.
By instilling those values, parents can encourage positive sibling relationships that children will want to maintain throughout adulthood, Killoren said.
The findings appeared in the International Journal of Behavioral Development.