Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Siblings Foster Social Development

 What comes to your mind when you hear the word sibling? Some ideas may be friend, enemy, fun, fighting, laughter, competition. I know as a child I was close friends with my siblings, but we also fought a lot. Relationships are important for children’s development and one of the closest and longest lasting relationships children have are with their siblings. Siblings spend a great amount of time together. By middle childhood, the time spent with siblings exceeds the time spent with parents! Siblings make great playmates and friends. However, siblings also fight and disagree. Research shows that exposure to siblings, whether negative or positive, plays a role in children’s social development. Let’s discuss ways siblings promote social development.

Perspective taking
Sibling relationships are measured by levels of warmth and conflict. Both warmth and conflict in sibling relationships require children to consider each other’s feelings and beliefs as well as participate in perspective taking. It is hard and even annoying to listen to your children fight, but they when they do, they have a chance to participate in perspective taking. One child must consider how the other is feeling or why they feel this way. More siblings means more opportunities to experience more points of view! They also learn how to deal with conflict. Younger siblings especially have much to learn from a conflict, they learn how to compromise or solve an issue with a child who is more socially developed than they are. The next time your children fight just think, they are learning from this argument!

Regulating Emotions
The levels of warmth and conflict in a sibling relationship also help foster emotional regulation and social skills. Having even one sibling exposes children to situations where they experience negative emotions and are expected to control these negative emotions. Research shows that because of these situations, children with siblings on average exhibit better social skills and interpersonal skills than children without siblings.

Having siblings even increases a child’s self-awareness. Research shows that conversations and self-orientated arguments with siblings, rather than mothers, provides a context where differentiation between self and another person can emerge. When a child uses internal language such as “I”, “me” and “mine”, this helps another child distinguish themselves from their sibling.

Some parents worry adding another child to their family may harm the firstborn in some way, but don’t worry! The relationship those children will have with each other with benefit both of them in their social development.

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