There is no question that siblings are a large part of many people's lives. Approximately 80% of children raised in developed countries have at least one brother or sister (Howe 2006). Barring tragedy and severe estrangement, a sibling is one of the longest relationships a person will ever have, and often one of the first. Sarah Berger found that for very young children, older siblings are their closest and most frequent companions, even above their primary caretaker (Berger et al). Regardless of one's personal stance on the infamous nature vs. nurture debate, such a powerful childhood influence cannot be ignored when examining the factors of development.
Research on sibling influence of all sorts of development is an interesting, and rapidly expanding area of study. With so many different experiments, researchers, and areas of development, findings can be vast, confusing, and even contradictory. It cannot be said that sibling influence is uniformly beneficial, or uniformly detrimentalthat much depends heavily on individual family dynamics and a few other factors that will be examinedhowever it is quite reasonable to say that siblings have a substantial and significant effect on the development of their younger siblings.
[...] The greatest direct impact of an older sibling on a younger sibling, however, is in the areas of emotional, social, and personality development. The early relationship between siblings, according to Nina Howe's findings, “play an important role in the development of children's understanding of others minds, namely their understanding of emotions, thoughts, intentions and beliefs.” Through real life interactions with their sibling, the younger child finds that their personal actions can influence the emotion and behavior of their brother or sister (Howe 2006). [...]
[...] Results are consistent, across the board, that siblings are a power and influential factor in a young child's development and childhood. Being such a significant relationship, it surely has the power to go wrong. When the oldest has behavioral problems, data is positively correlated with the same in the younger sibling. If the older sibling is violent, anti-social or a bully it can dramatically influence the younger's personality and social skills. However, when children are raised with parents who aren't delaying their children through neglect or abuse, and the sibling is a fairly normal child, the relationship is nearly entirely beneficial. [...]
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