A new study has shown that the age difference between siblings can have a significant impact on their mental health. While smaller age gaps may seem like a good thing, research suggests that they can lead to poorer outcomes overall. Dr. Gardere explains that this trend is linked to the tendency for parents to treat siblings close in age similarly and not take into account their individual needs. This can result in increased competition and comparison among teenagers, potentially leading to anxiety and self-esteem issues.
However, there are also positive mental health benefits to having siblings. Siblings can provide emotional support, companionship, and a built-in social network, as well as a unique understanding of each other’s experiences. Dr. Gardere notes that the support provided by siblings can help fill the void left by diluted attention from parents, similar to being part of a band or sports team.
To avoid negative impacts on mental health from sibling relationships, it’s important for parents to be mindful of their children’s individual needs and perspectives and avoid treating siblings close in age as if they are the same. It’s also crucial to encourage positive relationships between siblings and foster a sense of belonging and companionship among them. By doing so, parents can ensure that their children receive the best possible care and support for their mental health while still enjoying the benefits of having siblings.