I didn't grow up with siblings anywhere near my age, so I have no idea what it feels like to have some dickhead who looks like you constantly slamming doors and touching your stuff. (Or, conversely, to be that dickhead. Or both. Whatever.) And I was always jealous of people who did—like, maybe if I'd grown up with other kids in the house I'd be less territorial and rigid about my SVU time. Maybe I'd be able to hang out with people for more than a couple hours without feeling like I was going to crumble into dust and blow away from social exhaustion. Maybe I'd know about cool older-sibling stuff like "bands." (WHAT ARE BANDS, YOU GUYS!?) Having siblings close to one's own age seems, from an outsider's perspective, awesome. But a new study suggests that it might have its downsides too.
Researchers studied the conflicts and subsequent emotional patterns of 154 pairs of siblings, ages 12-15. Most siblings, they found, fought about issues of personal space and disputes about "fairness." And the types of fights those siblings had informed the types of emotional problems they experienced later on in life:
Teens who had more fights over equality and fairness had more depressive symptoms a year later. Campione-Barr said to USA Today that teens normally believed that fairness issues revolved around "shared resources and responsibilities within the family," meaning they felt that they were not getting enough attention from their families and felt less important.
...When it came to arguments about personal space, teens were more likely to have self-esteem issues.
Teens with more depression and anxiety were also more likely to have more fights a year later. Those with higher self-esteem had less fights.
Boys with older brothers and girls with brothers, regardless of order, were more likely to have anxiety. Teens whose sibling was a different gender were also more likely to have lower self-esteem.
Now, clearly, this isn't some black-and-white causation—I know plenty of only children who suffer from anxiety and depression, and I'm sure (well, for the sake of argument I'm pretending to be sure) that at least one or two of the Duggars are happy and well-adjusted. But I do think it's important to keep an eye on how kids interact—the idea that "kids will be kids" is at the root of a lot of unchallenged bullying. Because sometimes kids aren't just being kids. Sometimes kids are total dicks.
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