Sisters hold a special place in their families. They may borrow clothes without permission, tease the other kids, tattle to the parents, and hog the bathroom. But they are often the ones keeping the family together. They are present in good times and bad, bringing their unwavering honesty and loyalty. People who have good relationships with their sisters treasure their bond.
“They help you develop social skills, like communication, compromise and negotiation,” said Alex Jensen, assistant professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. “Even sibling conflict, if it is minor, can promote healthy development.” 
Scientifically-Proven Benefits of Having a Sister
A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2010 suggested that sisters can boost their siblings’ mental health and self-esteem. In fact, the researchers found that sisters help ease their siblings’ feelings of being “lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful.” 
“What we know suggests that sisters play a role in promoting positive mental health,” Jensen said, “and later in life they often do more to keep families in contact with one another after the parents pass.”
The study centered on 395 families with two or more children with one aged 10 to 14. The children in this adolescent group filled out a questionnaire and got interviewed about the sibling closest in age. They did the same questionnaire and interview one year later. These findings spoke a lot about sibling relationships, which are usually the longest relationships in people’s lives, since parents pass away and spouses come later on. Siblings are constant. 
This research found that having a sister makes people kinder and more giving because sisters promote positive social behaviors when they show affection to their siblings. “Even if there is a little bit of fighting, as long as they have affection, the positive will win out,” lead study author Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life. “If siblings get in a fight, they have to regulate emotions. That’s an important skill to learn for later in life.”
Communication and Social Skills
Additionally, sisters can enhance their siblings’ interpersonal skills. Growing up, kids learn how to navigate arguments and social situations, while also helping younger kids with their interactions. Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, states that men with sisters tend to be better at communicating with women opposed to men who were only children or who had only brothers.  Keep in mind that many people would prefer to discuss certain topics with their sisters instead of their parents. Communication contributes to feelings of closeness and love, especially when people are confiding about something difficult in their life and their sisters make them feel validated and grounded.
Similarly, Jensen said, “Some research suggests that having a sibling who is a different gender from you can be a real benefit in adolescence. Many of those sibling pairs become closer during the teen years because they become good sources of information about the opposite sex.”
These communication and refined social skills can even help people better navigate the difficulties of marriage. According to professor of sociology, Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, the likelihood of divorce can be reduced by two percent for every sibling the partner has. 
The Importance of Siblings
Padilla-Walker said that sibling affection, from brothers or sisters, is related to “less delinquency and more pro-social behaviors like greater kindness and generosity, volunteering and helping others.” Brothers in particular have their own unique influence, but all siblings promote good deeds and charitable attitudes. But all of these benefits come with sibling relationships with strong affection, so it’s up to parents to encourage this outcome.
And don’t worry if children fight; this can lead to better communication skills and emotional regulation. “An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict,” Padilla-Walker said. 
This article originally appeared on Tiffy Taffy and has been republished here with permission.
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- “It’s Science: Having Sisters Helps You Become A Better Person.” HuffPost. March 17, 2021
- “Sisters give siblings better mental health, study shows.” BYU News. August 1, 2010
- “Why Having a Sister Makes You a Kinder Person.” ABC News. Barbara Goldberg. August 4, 2010
- “THE SIBLING EFFECT: 12 Amazing Facts About Brothers And Sisters.” Business Insider. Linette Lopez. September 14, 2011
- “8 Proven Benefits Of Having A Sister.” Bustle. Amanda Chatel. April 22, 2015
- “Sisters Curb Sibling Depression.” Live Science. August 3, 2010