By Margarita Nahapetyan
According to the findings by psychologists at De Montfort University and the University of Ulster, individuals who grow up with a sister, are happier, more optimistic and better balanced in their future life. As to brothers - researchers said that they seem to have the opposite effect.
Scientists from the two universities analyzed the well-being of 571 people with the ages between 17 and 25. Some of them grew up with brothers, some with sisters, and some with a mixture of both. The study also included individuals who did not have any siblings. The experts used a range of standard tests for good mental health in order to measure how much social support people felt they had, how much control over their lives they felt they had, levels of optimism, achievement motivation, or drive, and ability to handle difficult situations.
The results revealed that people of either gender who had at least one sister in the household, scored significantly higher marks in the majority of tests. They turned out to better cope, in general, with setbacks, were more optimistic, more ambitious, less prone to stress and led a better social life. Position number two was taken by individuals who grew without siblings, and right down at the very bottom were those who grew up with two or more brothers, without any sisters.
The experts explained the phenomenon by expressiveness that is a characteristic feature for the majority of girls. They said that the presence of girls in the family is linked to open channels of communication, while boys in the family have the opposite effect. 'The more natural trend for boys is not to talk about things,' says Professor Tony Cassidy of the University of Ulster, who led the study. 'When there are a number of boys together, it is almost like a conspiracy of silence not to talk.'
Dr. Liz Wright, a co-author of the study from De Montfort University, said that the research was initiated after a previous project which showed that girls with sisters appeared to handle better stressful situations when they encountered trouble in their lives. The aim of the new study was to find out if the positive impact of sisters would go much further than just girls, and actually the scientists did. They discovered that one of the most interesting findings was the impact of female siblings at the time of a parental divorce. The scientists attributed it to the natural inclination of women to express their emotions and the desire to talk about problems in order to support and encourage family members. By doing so, women are able to relieve distress in "broken homes," therefore helping keep family relationships develop even stronger bond. Psychologists have known for a long time that "emotional expression" at times of upheaval, is essential and fundamental to good psychological health.
The experts suggest that parents with boys who are about to get divorced or separated should take into consideration that their sons may struggle when it will come to digest the family break up. Professor Cassidy said it is important for every parent to be aware that in particular situations they need to push their sons into opening up and talking about their problems so that they are able to handle them in the most effective way.
The findings were presented this week at the British Psychological Society in Brighton.