While we have spent a lifetime with our siblings, getting to know every quirk, trait and annoying habit that they have, we often don’t stop to think of the real impact that our sisters and brothers have on who we are and how we act. Love them or hate them, your sisters and brothers are by far the most influential people in your life — more so than your parents, your husband, your own children. From the time we’re born, they’re our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and our cautionary tales. Compared to other significant relationships in our lives – our own children arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents leave us too early.
Whether it’s the order you were born in or all that good-natured (or bad-natured as the case may be) ribbing to which you subjected each other, our siblings can have an intense and long lasting effect on our lives, influencing everything from our health to how we interact with others. National Siblings Day is April 10th & what better way to celebrate than with some sibling science! Here are our top 5 facts that show just how special the relationship between siblings is!
1. Children spend more time with their siblings than with friends, parents, teachers or even alone.
While siblings may not always get along, they do choose to pass a great deal of their free time with one another — more than anyone else in their life, in fact. By the time children reach age 11, they’re spending about 33% of their free time with siblings. Even as they grow older and get busy with their own lives, a Penn State University study found that they still spend about 11 hours a week with one another. In big families, these numbers can be even higher, with kids passing 17 hours with one another.
2. Firstborns are generally smarter than the younger siblings, having on average, a three-point IQ advantage over the second sibling.
As unfair as it may be, siblings who are born first tend to have a substantial academic advantage. They outperform their younger siblings by the equivalent of having had an extra year of schooling and are more likely to score higher on an IQ test. There are several theories on why this is the case, the strongest being that older siblings spend time teaching their younger siblings, thereby reinforcing their own understanding of concepts and ideas. Oddly enough, other studies have shown that younger siblings are generally born with a higher IQ, but this disparity reverses by the time children reach age 12.
3. Younger siblings tend to be more extroverted than older siblings in large families.
Some believe that this is because they are so used to dealing with a large number of siblings, they are forced to speak up to get attention. It can also occur in smaller families for similar reasons. This extraversion can have long lasting effects, with surveys of siblings showing that younger siblings often have an easier time being funny and having lighthearted interactions with others. Younger siblings in the study were also found to be more creative, unconventional and rebellious than their older siblings, who were often much more serious.
All those fights with siblings may just change who you are as a person. Skills children learn in conflict resolution with siblings can carry over into other areas of life, making us better or worse at forming romantic relationships, working with others, having lasting friendships or even career success. Here are a few of our favorite findings when it comes to the role our siblings have in our own personality development:
- Your odds of one day becoming President shoot up if you’re the oldest. More than half of American presidents have been firstborns. Experts say that older children often help their parents look after younger siblings. So, they develop strong “Presidential” skills at an early age, like managing people and communicating.
- Middle children are the Peacemakers among siblings & probably a little secretive. Researchers say that middle kids feel like they don’t get as much attention as their siblings. So, they tend to keep their feelings to themselves. The advantage middle kids have is this: They have to learn to get along with both older and younger siblings, which forces middle kids to learn good communication skills and creative ways of solving problems. It also helps them develop a heightened sense of right and wrong. So, it’s no surprise that Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were both middle children.
- Are you the youngest? Consider a career in Hollywood! A study found that younger children are usually drawn to showbiz careers because they’ve been in the spotlight their whole life – basking in the adulation of their parents! Famous youngest children comedians include Jim Carrey, Goldie Hawn and Steven Colbert – who is the youngest of 11 kids!
- Only children are usually more mature! Growing up without other kids – the only child gets used to, and comfortable with, speaking with adults at an early age.
5. The number of siblings you have and your birth order can influence your health.
Younger siblings are less likely to develop allergies and eczema than their older siblings, perhaps because by the time they arrive their home is already awash with germs brought in by other siblings helping to build a stronger, better immune system. Of course, all that health early on might not matter, as older siblings are much more likely to live past the age of 100. Researchers think it has more to do with the age of the mother when she gives birth than anything else, with the idea that younger eggs and wombs means healthier babies.