The sibling relationship is a natural testing ground for children to learn about their world. It is in this safe space that they learn how to manage disagreements and regulate emotions in socially acceptable ways. Sibling interactions provide many opportunities for children to use their cognitive skills (e.g., share perspectives, imitate each other’s actions).
Much research has focused on the role parents play in children’s learning but siblings have a huge influence on how children learn about the world. Siblings are great teachers, with studies demonstrating that children learn better from an older siblings than a same-aged friend.
Additionally, siblings have more first-hand experience of the kinds of environments that children find themselves in. They can be great role models, demonstrating how to act at school, how to respond to a bully or how to make friends.
Studies indicate that a positive sibling relationship in childhood is linked to better outcomes in the teenage and adult years. There are clear ties between stressful life events in childhood and emotional difficulties later in life. However, research shows that siblings can limit the impact of some these stressors because they can act as someone to share worries and concerns with.
Younger siblings can also teach their older siblings important lessons. Having a younger sibling improves older children’s levels of empathy. This is likely because the older sibling is regularly exposed to situations in which they can identify with the younger child’s perspective and empathise with their experience.
Not only are they potential life-long friends, siblings really help to foster one another’s cognitive and social development. Siblings: the definition of love, strife, competition and compassion.
References: Kramer (2014), Slomkowski et al. (2005), Gass (2006), Jambon et al. (2018)