Holiday News: Sibling Rivalry Can Affect Onset Of Depression, Anxiety, and Self-Esteem Issues!

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Christmas Eve! 

If you celebrate Christmas, then chances are over the next 48 hours you will be scrambling to finish your shopping and/or traveling to be with family to celebrate, enjoy a traditional meal and spend a great time with your grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, children, cousins, nieces and nephews. At least that is how we all like to imagine a family holiday will play itself out. But for many getting through the holidays can be a challenge. Many suffer from depression and anxiety and a new study zeroes in on sibling rivalry as the source of depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues.

Journal Child Development publishes study’s on-line version December 20, 2012

Researchers from the University of Missouri studied the effects that sibling rivalry had over the course of one year to determine if such rivalry could affect the onset of depression, anxiety and self-esteem problems.  This empirical study was published on-line December 20, 2012: Differential Associations Between Domains of Sibling Conflict and Adolescent Emotional Adjustment.

The study’s parameters…

The study’s authors’ work is outlined:

  • Researchers worked with 145 pairs of siblings.
  • The siblings were mostly from European American, middle-class with average ages of 15 and 12.
  • The study was completed over the course of one year.
  • Sibling issues examined were about equality and fairness (simple items like whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher or borrowing clothes without asking).

The study’s findings…

While at first glance the issues examined seem simple, it appears they did have an impact. According to a press release regarding the study:

  • This study found that teens who fought with their siblings over equality and fairness issues were more depressed a year later. 
  • Teens who fought with their siblings about personal space issues were more anxious and had lower self-esteem a year later. 
  • While the results related to depression were found in all adolescents, the results related to anxiety and self-esteem appeared to be more detrimental for some siblings than others—younger brothers with older brothers and girls with brothers had more anxiety, and teens in mixed-gender sibling pairs had lower self-esteem. 
  • The study also found that teens who were more depressed and anxious had more conflicts with their siblings a year later, and teens with more self-esteem had fewer conflicts a year later. 

So what should parents do when dealing with sibling rivalry?

If you think back to your own parents, you might remember certain admonitions that they offered when you were young. For example, some parents will offer the tenet “do unto others, as you would have others do unto you!” That works, don’t you think? Parents are often tasked to keep life fair in the family dynamic.

According to CBS NewsSusan McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State University, told USA Today that this study showed how parent’s differential treatment of siblings could affect sibling relationships and lead to youth depression. But, parents shouldn’t necessarily step in and stop fights. Instead they should help set up rules and be fair when it comes to enforcing chores and time limits. 

Maybe Thumper‘s dad offered the best advice on how to treat others, including our siblings…

Seventy (yes, 70) years ago a beloved film BAMBI was produced by Walt Disney. It premiered August 13, 1942, and was re-released over the decades in 1947, 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982, and 1988, before being made available on home video format. Most likely, we all have are favorite scenes from BAMBI, but for today’s discussion let’s recall what Thumper’s father taught him about dealing with our siblings and friends: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!

Enjoy a short video clip called: Thumper, What Did Your Father Tell You?

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Wishing you a healthy, peaceful and Merry Christmas…

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