While we have spent a lifetime with our siblings, getting to know every quirk, trait and annoying habit that they have, we often don’t stop to think of the real impact that our sisters and brothers have on who we are and how we act. Whether it’s the order you were born in or all that good-natured (or bad-natured as the case may be) ribbing to which you subjected each other, our siblings can have an intense and long lasting effect on our lives, influencing everything from our health to how we interact with others. To learn more about how your relationship with your brothers and/or sisters has shaped who you are, here are some facts drawn from scientific research on the subject that helping illuminate the true depth of relationships between siblings.
1. Children spend more time with their siblings than with friends, parents, teachers or even alone. While siblings may not always get along, they do choose to pass a great deal of their free time with one another — more than anyone else in their life, in fact. By the time children reach age 11, they’re spending about 33% of their free time with siblings. Even as they grow into adolescence and get busy with their own lives, a Penn State University study found that they still spend about 11 hours a week with one another. In big families, these numbers can be even higher, with kids passing 17 hours with one another.
2. Siblings fight. A lot. Sometimes with a conflict every 10 minutes. Any parent of more than one child knows that they sometimes just don’t get along. Whether it’s a power struggle, competitive personalities or just plain irritation from being around one another, siblings spend a lot of time battling it out. One researcher found that brothers and sisters between 3 and 7 years old engage in conflict 3.5 times an hour. Younger kids fight even more, with a fight happening every 10 minutes.
3. Sixty-five percent of mothers and 70% of fathers exhibit a preference for one sibling over another. Talk to most siblings and they’ll tell you in a heartbeat who they believe their parents prefer. While most parents outwardly deny having a favorite child, studies have proven time and time again that this simply isn’t the case. Many, if not most parents have a favorite and kids are well aware of it. Research has shown that many non-favored siblings use this situation to their own advantage, but that it can be damaging in the long run to their self-esteem and confidence.
4. Having a sibling of the opposite sex makes boys and girls more likely to adhere to gender norms. Siblings can often try to mimic one another and follow in each other’s footsteps, but another phenomenon known as de-identification can also come into play. This is when siblings make a purposeful attempt to be different from each other and stake out their own role in the family dynamics. It can come into play in strange ways with families who have one child of each sex. Studies have suggested that this may intensify gender identification, with girls seeking out more traditionally feminine activities and friends and boys playing up the rough and tumble traits more readily attributed to their gender.
5. Having a sibling of the opposite sex may help you pick up dates more easily. Having a sibling of the opposite sex can have some other effects as well. Those with an opposite sex sibling were found in studies to have an easier time initiating and maintaining a conversation with a member of that demographic. The study revealed that those with older siblings of the opposite sex were seen as more likeable and were likely to strike up a conversation and smile, giving them a marked advantage on the dating scene.
6. Firstborns are generally smarter than the younger siblings, having on average, a three-point IQ advantage over the second sibling. As unfair as it may be, siblings who are born first tend to have a substantial academic advantage. They outperform their younger siblings by the equivalent of having had an extra year of schooling and are more likely to score higher on an IQ test. There are several theories on why this is the case, the strongest being that older siblings spend time teaching their younger siblings, thereby reinforcing their own understanding of concepts and ideas. Oddly enough, other studies have shown that younger siblings are generally born with a higher IQ, but this disparity reverses by the time children reach age 12.